David Macaulay, the renowned author/ illustrator of The Way Things Work, has a knack for demystifying mechanical structures by explaining the engineering, physics, and human ingenuity that have gone into their design -- although in sum, his explanations usually make the man-made world seem ever more curious and phenomenal. In WGBH Boston's Building Big series, Macaulay visits the world's great architectural structures to tell their stories and the stories of the men who built them. This box set includes all five of the programs, which were produced in 2000:
In Skyscrapers, he discusses early "skyscrapers" created by powerful Italian families, introduces rare footage of the building of the Empire State Building, explains how flaws in the Citicorp Center in New York produced a near-disaster, and profiles the career of Gustave Eiffel -- the bridge builder and eventual designer of what may be the most recognizable structure on earth.
In Bridges, he discusses Brooklyn's famous suspension bridge and the engineer who never saw his biggest project to completion, the Golden Gate Bridge's history and the unique construction that allows it to withstand nature's fury, as well as the Firth of Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland -- whose cantilevered design was inspired by a human tragedy.
In Domes, he discusses the unique design of the Hagia Sophia's dome, uses archival photos to literally reconstruct the Capitol Dome in Washington, DC, explains how (and why) a circus tycoon decided to build the Houston Astrodome, and explores the geodesic dome design of Buckminster Fuller.
In Tunnels, he explores Boston's "Big Dig" project, explains how the first underwater automobile tunnel was built, and profiles the radical engineer who changed London's underground. He showcases the powerful machines that made construction of the Chunnel possible, and serves as guide through the tunnels beneath ancient Rome.
Finally, in Dams, he discusses Frank "Hurry Up" Crowe -- the merciless chief engineer of the Hoover Dam, the effect of the Aswan Dam on Nubian society, and the cause of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 -- a disaster that produced 2200 casualties. Each disc comes packed with a topic-specific building activity.