Down to Earth: Foundations Past and Present: The Invisible Art of the Builder, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Down to Earth

Foundations Past and Present: The Invisible Art of the Builder, 1st Edition

By Jean Kerisel

CRC Press

162 pages

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Hardback: 9789061916888
pub: 1991-01-01
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Written in straightforward non-technical language, with numerous diagrams and photographs, this book takes a look at ‘the invisible art’ of the great builders: how they founded their constructions in the earth and strove to understand and combat the natural forces, such as earth pressures, water, landslides, earthquakes, and almost imperceptible geological changes, with which they had to contend. A great many examples, including the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, the pyramids of Egypt, the Roman roads, the Tower of Pisa, the Eddystone Lighthouse, the Panama Canal, the Thames Tunnel and the Eiffel Tower, are used to illustrate various aspects of this long battle. Man has gradually mastered physical constraints and undertaken increasingly ambitious projects, seeking solutions initially by trial and error and later through scientific study, The final part of the book looks to the future and discusses the threats to a number of great cities and what has been done to counter them. This fascinating history, written with humour and affection, pays tribute to the largely unknown ‘backroom boys’ of construction, whose work usually attracts attention only when things go wrong.

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Past

1. The Earth, Animal Life and Mankind

2. The Ziggurat: Invention in Ancient Mesopotamia

3. The Invisible and the Visible in the Egyptian Pyramids

4. The Art of Foundations: Greek Elegance and Roman Solidity

5. A Refined Approach to Foundations: Chine in the First Millennium

6. A Few Hidden errors in Medieval Architecture

7. The Rampant, the Vault and the Dome: the Itinerary of an Idea through several Millennia

Part 2: The Last Tow Hundred Years

8. Coulomb Ushers in the Scientific Approach

9. The Panama Canal: an Ocean-to-Ocean Cutting with Multiple Side Effects

10. An Architecture that Defies the Heavens

11. The Damming Rivers: Overloads to Make the Earth Tremble

12. Footholds on the Sea Floor

13. Under the Earth

Part 3: The Work of Time

14. The Permanence of the Earth’s Burden

15. Submersion by the Sea

16. Sudden Destruction: Earthquakes



Subject and Author Index

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