Why Buildings fall down: How Structures fail

Why buildings fall down: how structures fail

Once upon a time there were Seven Wonders of the World. Now

only one survives: the mountainlike Pyramid of Khufu in the Egyp-
tian desert near Cairo.

The other six have fallen down.
It is the destiny of the man-made environment to vanish, but

we, short-lived men and women, look at our buildings so con-
vinced they will stand forever that when some do collapse, we are

surprised and concerned.
Our surprise may be partly due to the fact that most of us judge
buildings by their facades: They look beautiful when very old and
ugly when very young, the opposite of human faces. But this kind
of judgment is superficial and misleading; a much better metaphor
for a building is the human body.

A building is conceived when designed, born when built, alive
while standing, dead from old age or an unexpected accident. It

breathes through the mouth of its windows and the lungs of its air-
conditioning system. It circulates fluids through the veins and

arteries of its pipes and sends messages to all parts of its body
through the nervous system of its electric wires. A building reacts 
to changes in its outer or inner conditions through its brain of feed-
back systems, is protected by the skin of its facade, supported by

the skeleton of its columns, beams, and slabs, and rests on the feet
of its foundations. Like most human bodies, most buildings have

full lives, and then they die.


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