Cover image for Why buildings fall down : how structures fail
Why buildings fall down : how structures fail
Levy, Matthys.
Personal Author:
First paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 1994.

Physical Description:
334 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
The first structural failure -- Miracle on thirty-fourth street -- Will the Pantheon stand up forever -- For lack of redundancy -- Big bangs -- The day the earth shook -- Galloping Gertie -- When metals tire -- Thruways to eternity -- The weaknesses of mother earth -- Valley of tears -- The house of cards -- Structural dermatology -- Old-age death -- The worst structural disaster in the United States -- The politics of destruction -- The structure of the law -- Conclusion: can we prevent future failures?
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TH441 .L48 1992C Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
TH441 .L48 1992C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The authors examine buildings of all kinds, from ancient domes like Istanbul's Hagia Sophia to the state-of-the-art Hartford Civic Arena. Their subjects range from the man-caused destruction of the Parthenon to the earthquake damage of 1989 in Armenia and San Francisco. 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.

Author Notes

Matthys Levy, an architectural engineer, has won numerous awards, including the AIA Institute Honor Award. He is a principal of Weidlinger Associates, one of America's leading structural Engineering firms
Mario Salvadori (1907-1997) was James Renwick Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering and Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Columbia University

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Not just for structural engineers, this inside account of technical disasters from ancient times to the present will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly since Levy and Salvadori add a touch of humor to their concrete explanations. From crumbling pyramids to the twisting of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Amoco Building's shedding of its marble "skin," the true stories are as fascinating as any disaster novel. Salvadori, who previously expounded upon Why Buildings Stand Up (Norton, 1990), has served as an expert witness as well as a principal engineer and is full of interesting tales about human and mechanical failings. ~--Denise Perry Donavin

Library Journal Review

Structural engineers Levy and Salvadori have written a well-paced, highly informative, nontechnical work describing failures in a variety of structures such as buildings, bridges, and dams. Salvadori wrote Why Buildings Stand Up (Norton, 1990), so this is a natural complement. The subject, somewhat grisly in nature, is presented here with respect for the tragedies involved, and yet with a lighthearted pursuit of the truth as to the cause of the failure. Analysis of the failure is discussed and recommendations for improvement are offered, but without the usual condescension hindsight allows. Profuse illustrations by Kevin Woest, well labeled and explained, and several appendixes aid access. An index (not seen) is provided, but no glossary. This fascinating book is easily accessible to laypersons. Highly recommended.-- Alex Hartmann, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A collection of accounts of structural failures that can be understood by people with a wide range of backgrounds. The structural engineer, architect, and students studying each of these disciplines will appreciate the explanation of failures that they have probably encountered in other readings. Failures of ancient facilities, through modern bridges and buildings, are presented. There are simple explanations of the effects of various loads on a structure, such as those due to wind, earthquake, or fatigue. Some of the basic principles of statics and strength of materials are illustrated so that even readers with limited or no engineering backgrounds will find the book compelling. Hand-drawn sketches add to the friendly style of the writing. For all engineering libraries as well as public libraries. H. I. Epstein; University of Connecticut

Table of Contents

Perfacep. 9
Acknowledgmentsp. 11
Introductionp. 13
1. The First Structural Failurep. 17
2. Miracle on Thirty-fourth Streetp. 25
3. Will the Pantheon Stand Up Forever?p. 31
4. For Lack of Redundancyp. 55
5. Big Bangsp. 76
6. The Day the Earth Shookp. 90
7. Galloping Gertiep. 109
8. When Metals Tirep. 121
9. Thruways to Eternityp. 134
10. The Weaknesses of Mother Earthp. 149
11. Valley of Tearsp. 161
12. The House of Cardsp. 173
13. Structural Dermatologyp. 183
14. Old-Age Deathp. 207
15. The Worst Structural Disaster in the United Statesp. 221
16. The Politics of Destructionp. 231
17. The Structure of the Lawp. 242
18. Terror from the Skyp. 257
19. Conclusion: Can We Prevent Future Failures?p. 269
A. Loadsp. 281
B. Stress and Strainp. 289
C. Structural Materialsp. 292
D. Structural Systemsp. 295
Indexp. 327