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Why Buildings Fall Down: Why Structures Fail
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Why Buildings Fall Down: Why Structures Fail

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  329 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The stories that make up Why Buildings Fall Down are in the end very human ones, tales of the interaction of people and nature, of architects, engineers, builders, materials, and natural forces all coming together in sometimes dramatic (and always instructive) ways.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published June 1st 1992)
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Why did the pyramid at Meidum shed 250,000 tons of limestone outer casings when few of the others have? Why is the pyramid shape a logical structure for a country where the only available building material is stone? Those and many other questions are answered in a fascinating book by Matthys Levy. The bottom blocks of a pyramid must support the weight of all the blocks above it; those on top support only their own weight, much like a mountain. The classical 52o angle was adopted only after it wa ...more
Tristan Leisten
I read "Why Buildings fall down by Matthys Levy.
I quite enjoyed this book, It provided an interesting mix of of architecture, and science. It promoted the idea of imperfection and learning from others mistakes. It provided reader involvement with multiple interesting tests, and experiments. Throughout the book it talked about classic works of architecture, and failed architecture examples that teach classic mistakes. This book goes through important details of building and how they could have be
Jason Mccool
Very good. Although it starts out a bit slow, Mr. Levy and Mr Salvadori really showcase a wide variety of structural failures from around the world and across a broad timeframe. It's a good read for any engineer or architect looking to learn from the mistakes of the past so as to not repeat them, and for the average person wanting to learn some of the challenges of our job.

Overall, I don't think he gets too technical for the average reader, and the prolific illustrations and appendices are help
I learned some really interesting things about architecture and buildings and all the different jobs it takes to build a building/structure. The beginning of chapter 16 sums up all the ways that buildings fall down the best: "We build structures with the faith that they will last forever...the forces of nature and human error often conspire to confound our optimism and cause structural failures...pressure of population growth, our lack of respect for the past, or our belief that violence solves ...more
This nonfiction book is about the explanations of why structures, like bridges and buildings, fall down/fail. The author's intent is to educate the reader about past structures failing. The author explains why they fail, like if the design was poor or the rust problem was ignored. He also wants to educate the reader about the forces that were incorporated in the time before the structure fails. The problem that this book talks about is that many buildings have fallen over the years, hurting hund ...more
Probably best for the technically minded, but this is a great book. Salvadori puts an easy conversational tone on what would otherwise be fairly dry material. Not only was I completely engaged by the stories of architecture's most notorious failures, I learned a lot about structural theory. To know why something falls down, he explains fully why it was standing in the first place.

I'd read the 1st edition years ago, but I read the second edition recently and the afterward on the WTC collapse was
Awesome book! It is technical and scientific but in very entertaining way! Sometimes I felt like I am reading a detective or a horror book, and at other times it was fun and informative, educative.
The topic is lovely: the details of structural failures. The author is an expert, able to draw on his rich career experiences and with amusing anecdotes, like when the opposing-party attorney asked the court to stop calling him "Doctor", since "who knows what a PhD from the University of Rome means or if it's comparable to an American doctorate." (The attorney was overruled.)

The writing is very uneven, however. Some topics are treated in great detail; others are glossed over superficially withou
Saznizam Sinoh
Engineering for both hardcore civil engineers and for the average reader
Laura Woodyard
The technical discussion on architectural development are implicit throughout this thoroughly researched read. The expert opinion, the analytical skills, the discussion of mechanical stress, and the other forms of gravity and strain, and many integral aspects of design and infrastructural development are critical to the solid foundation for a building. What is also taking into consideration are environmental elements that need to be built into the design plans, and a well developed understanding ...more
Good book, a riveting review of all the reasons buildings fall down. Uh, well, actually, rivets are barely mentioned, and don't appear to commonly be a factor. Very entertaining, interesting and educational, at least if you're an engineer like I am. It also includes the demise of other structures besides buildings, like bridges, dams, etc. Once in a while, the book gets off-topic a bit, but always in a good way, or at least an entertaining way. The most interesting thing? Even an Egyptian pyrami ...more
Aug 18, 2007 Mike rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of architecture, engineering
This book is a collection of cases describing how and why structures failed. A few of the cases are dull as hell, but most are interesting, and the discussion flies right along. If anything, it's a little maddening that so little time is spent describing the materials themselves and describing the failures a little more 'rigorously'. That's not really what this book is for, though (there's a pretty good appendix anyway), so I would recommend picking it up.
A short, fun layman's level description of why building fall written by experts in the field. I spent most of the time wishing the book was longer. Famous collapses like Galloping Gerdie fills only five pages. There are some strange bits where the author transcribes parts of his testimonies in court in which he gets one up on the opposing attorney. In spite of that, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to just about anyone.
Allen Garvin
A fabulously interesting book I've been reading on and off for months, frequently referring back to previous chapters to reread sections. The physics and engineering of fault tolerance, and how small perturbations, changes, unforeseen stresses, and many other things, often very minor, cause catastrophic failures (and also, the problems afterward of determining the cause).
Jessie Moberg
Apr 01, 2013 Jessie Moberg rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in building construction
One of my favorites.

This is a great work by two very intelligent structural engineers. They explain the processes and nuances in an informal way and break everything down in a non-technical way.

I also love the way they describe some truly horrific building failures without a hint of malice or disrespect for the designers and engineers.
Dec 05, 2007 Aram rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people that go in buildings
A gift from salim to jump start site (still dormant!).

This book is pretty entertaining. very simply and directly conveys why structures fail - bridges and buildings mostly. written with a bit of academic smugness but beyond that pretty spot on. De-emphasizes the math and explains pretty well for folks who are not engineers.
While the book contained a lot of interesting situations of building failure, and was fairly comprehensive, the point of each chapter is not often entirely clear. Additionally, the book seemed a bit too technical for the lay person audience that it claimed to be written for.
Quirky. Could have been approachable to someone without structural engineer background, it's a good idea to read the appendices first. Some of the avant garde failures leave you thinking "why were they so confident it would stand up".
Sep 04, 2007 erock rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The paranoid
Well, it is what it is. A book about why buildings fall down. Structural stuff, geek talk. Generally awesome if and only if you have some kind of technical knowledge.
This was interesting, but for me too technical and repetitive. I didn't want to know quite that much about the reason that bolt failed.
Felicia Middleton
Great book! Explained structure in an entertaining manner. I never had this type of sustained interest in the classroom.
Oct 05, 2010 Daniel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Architects & planning to be
Recommended to Daniel by: My son
It makes you realize how important structure is and gives one an appreciation of collaborating and working together
Profound. Will change your way of looking at buildings, how they are built, and what happens to them.
Roxie Romanov
One of the best books about architectureal case studies and structureal behavior I've ever read.
Andrew Rodda
Dec 25, 2014 Andrew Rodda marked it as to-read
Hard to design buildings that stand up, if you don't know why they fall down.
James Brogan
May 20, 2011 James Brogan is currently reading it
It appears some buildings were built badly. Boom. Canada is not blamed.
Ron Bergquist
sort of like Henry Petroski's book on failures in engineering
Izzy G
Aug 03, 2007 Izzy G rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Structural engineers
Construction defects are so much fun!
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