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The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures

Bloomsbury Publishing, 8 February 2018

Imagine you woke up one morning, and everything that engineers had created disappeared. What would you see?

No cars, no houses; no phones, bridges or roads. No tunnels under tidal rivers, no soaring skyscrapers. Engineering is an intrinsic and intimate part of our existence, shaping the spaces in which reside. We cannot live without it.

In BUILT, structural engineer Roma Agrawal takes a unique look at how construction has evolved from the mud huts of our ancestors to towers of steel that reach into the sky. She unearths how humans have tunnelled through kilometres of solid mountain, bridged the widest and deepest of rivers, and tamed Nature’s precious – and elusive – water resources. She tells vivid tales of the pioneers behind landmark builds such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Burj Khalifa, and examines, from an engineering perspective, tragedies like the collapse of the Twin Towers. She reveals how she designs a building so it will stand strong – even in the face of gales, fire, earthquakes and explosions.
 
With colourful stories of her life-long fascination with buildings – and her own hand-drawn illustrations – Roma uncovers the extraordinary secret lives of structures.

REVIEWS

"The Shard engineer has long been fascinated by the technical ingenuity of design. Now she wants to help us see the built environment with similar wonder- The Observer

"she weaves accessible explanations of scientific principles together with engaging historical stories and personal anecdotes." - The Guardian 

"Agrawal has a gift for rendering complex phenomena in simple terms, such as her explanation of the critical failures that led to the collapse of the Twin Towers. For those of us who are architecturally inclined but somewhat maths-averse, it’s a real treat." - The Financial Times

"Agrawal’s text is richly informed with academic, historical and anecdotal asides as well as her own line drawings to illustrate her technical points." - E&T Magazine

"She writes with an engineer’s computational precision, balanced with charming approximation: how better to explain strength differentials to laypeople than with elephants?" - The Arts Desk

Thanks to my agent PEW Literary and publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


Films - Demonstrations showing some of the principles from the book!

  • An Introduction to BUILT!

  • How a 1960s tower collapse happened because of not enough friction.

  • Building tunnels in different types of soils

  • Where science and religion come together...

  • Strong foundations - in a lake?!

  • How Fazlur Khan redefined the skyscraper

  • My love for arches and domes

  • The complexity of cable-stayed bridges

  • Using chocolate to demonstrate how steel works...

  • Why Structural Engineers are obsessed with triangles

  • Beams - demonstrated using carrots.

  • Different ways that columns can fail!

  • Two different ways of forming structures

  • Grappling with Gravity