Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition

Jeff Byles, Author . Harmony $24 (353p) ISBN 978-1-4000-5057-4

The controlled reduction of buildings to rubble is "the black art of our time," writes Byles. In this colorful thematic history of the demolition trade (a subject he was pursuing, it should be said, before the destruction of the Twin Towers), he rightfully calls Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, "the patron saint of creative destruction." Only in the 1910s did the simple need to topple skyscrapers emerge as a fact of urban renewal. Before 1900, demolition was only sporadically used to prevent the spread of fire, and was largely an inefficient matter of pulling buildings down, not exploding or imploding them. Over time, the dangers of wrecking balls led to an increased emphasis on hydraulics and contained explosives. Today, the ostentatious annihilation of gargantuan stadia and casinos draws awestruck throngs. Byles examines this history, looking at the "clear-cutting of entire neighborhoods" in Paris by Baron Haussmann ("who called himself 'artist-demolitionist' "), the "sorry end" of New York's original, monumental Pennsylvania Station (and its impact on the urban preservation movement) and the destruction of the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. With brio, Byles ably and pungently excavates the shadowy crannies of this underappreciated art, summarized by one practitioner as "a little dynamite, judiciously placed." 25 b&w photos. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/17/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 353 pages - 978-0-307-34528-8
Open Ebook - 183 pages - 978-0-307-42154-8
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