post written by Emma Filbrun
Author: David Macaulay
Major Themes: Architecture, City Planning
Synopsis: In a combination of descriptive text and detailed ink drawings, Macaulay shows all the systems in place under streets to keep cities moving smoothly.
Have you ever wondered what is under the streets of a city? All you can see above ground is a manhole here or there, or perhaps a wisp of steam escaping through a vent. The complex systems under the streets, however, are fascinating. With a combination of text and detailed pen and ink drawings, David Macaulay describes, in Underground, just what goes into keeping a city running.
Taking a typical intersection as an example, Macaulay introduces us to the different types of foundations used under tall buildings, and then starts to describe the utilities. From water and electric for buildings, to sewer systems, to steam pipes and telephone lines, and finally subways, you will learn about everything that is under the ground in a typical city. I did have to wonder, though, how much has changed since the book was first written. There have been some major advances in technology in the 30 or 40 years since then, although I’m sure almost everything is still done pretty much the same way.
My sons enjoyed this book, especially the first part about foundations and retaining walls. They didn’t find some of the other sections quite so engrossing, but there are enough surprising little details in the pictures (alligators in the sewer, anyone?) to capture almost anyone’s interest! If you are learning about building, or have a child interested in architecture, this would be a great book to have on your shelf.