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Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the…

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Brian Hayes

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345351,459 (4.39)4
Replete with the author's striking photographs, Infrastructure is a unique and spectacular guide, exploring all the major "ecosystems" of our modern industrial world, revealing what the structures are and why they're there, and uncovering beauty in unexpected places?wakening and fulfilling a curiosity you didn't know you had. Covering agriculture, resources, energy, communication, transportation, manufacturing, and waste, this is the "Book of Everything" for the industrial landscape. The objects that fill our everyday environment are streetlights, railroad tracks, antenna towers, highway overpasses, power lines, satellite dishes, and thousands of other manufactured items, many of them so familiar we hardly notice them. Larger and more exotic facilities have transformed vast tracts of the landscape: coal mines, nuclear power plants, grain elevators, oil refineries, and steel mills, to name a few. Infrastructure is a compelling and clear guide for those who want to explore and understand this mysterious world we've made for ourselves.… (more)
Title:Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape
Authors:Brian Hayes
Info:W. W. Norton (2006), Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Wishlist
Tags:design, notnature, environment, wishslit

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Infrastructure : a field guide to the industrial landscape by Brian Hayes (2005)



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In the Afterword, the author comments on the inspiration for this book - a visit to a railroad car classification yard with a huge parking lot but only a few employee’s cars. The manager explained that the brakemen had been replaced by automatic car retarders and the clerks by car-tracking transponders and computer software. Everywhere he (Brian Hayes) looked was that way; ports that once required hundreds of longshoremen and weeks of time to unload a freighter now got the job done with a crane operator and container ships; telephone exchanges that needed dozens of operators were now completely automated, and so on. The “industrial landscape” is almost empty.

“The industrial landscape” is actually a little bit of a misnomer; the book is concerned not with manufacturing but with the infrastructure that supports it - and everything else civilized. Thus chapters discuss mining, water (and wastewater) treatment, farming, oil and gas, electric power generation, electric power transmission, communications, highways, railroads, bridges and tunnels, aviation, shipping, and waste management. There are thus a whole lot of things normally considered “industrial” missing: no factories, warehouses, chemical plants (except refineries), trucking terminals (although railroad yards and shipyards are covered). There is no discussion of what you might call “second order” infrastructure - machine tools, forklifts, maintenance equipment, etc. Perhaps that’s a topic for a second book.

But what is here is full of fascinating little details:

*What side of a north-south street is a water main supposed to be on?

*The 1800 census had what percent of Americans living on farms? The 2000 census?

*What’s the section of drill pipe that’s turned by the rotary table called?

*How much coal does a 1000 megawatt power plant burn in a minute?

*Why do birds only sit on the highest wires in a high-voltage power transmission line?

*Why do cell phone towers usually have three antennas in an equilateral triangle?

*How long is a standard (non-continuous welded) length of railroad rail?

*How much horse manure was removed from NYC streets on an average day in 1900?

(This last one brings up a personal desire - a historical version of this book. What was “infrastructure” like in 1900? How was cargo handling, farming, mining, transportation different from today - not just “people rode horses” but what exactly was involved in the maintenance of those horses.)

This is all obviously very enjoyable, and I learned a lot; but now I’m feeling a little philosophical. It’s been a cliche even since Thoreau that we are “isolated from nature”. Reading this book - and especially the concept about the “emptiness of the industrial landscape” in the afterword - it seems that what we’re actually isolated from is technology. That almost seems ludicrous - I’m typing this on a laptop an artificially lit coffee shop just off a major highway - but if you think of the contact we have with the infrastructure that supports all that technology, it makes some sense. I’m betting that, even though the readers of this review are probably more technologically savvy than the average, you’ve still got more contact with “nature” than with “infrastructure” - there are many more visits to national parks and the like under your belts than visits to power plants or railroad yards. I tried to put together a little quiz to score “enviroLuddite” versus “technogeek” points - so many point for each two week hike in a wilderness area versus so many points for holding down a job in a wastewater treatment plant - but the complexity of the problem was too much for me. Perhaps we could develop one jointly, or maybe there’s already one out on the Web somewhere - comment or links welcome.
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1 vote setnahkt | Dec 12, 2017 |
What are the conical structure atop flour mills and lumbermills? Why are there 3 wires running along most electric power poles? Why are TV towers red and white? Why are the blades of a windmill in the front? Hayes answers these type of questinos in this interesting book. He apparently spent about 10 years taking photos of industrial sites around the world. Here he explains what they are and why they work. His writing is also thoughtful, beginning with mining and ending with waste management, where the end products are returned to the earth. ( )
1 vote jpsnow | May 25, 2008 |
I first heard about this book from CLUI —the Center for Land Use Interpretation. It’s exactly the kind of book I’d expect them to be into, and their positive spin led me to buy it immediately.

The book is huge—coffee-table sized—and full of amazing photographs ranging from distant shots of vast strip mines to detailed images of telecommunications equipment.

If you’ve ever wondered what some of those objects hanging off a telephone pole were for, where your water comes from, how power is generated, or any of a large range of other elements of our society’s industrial underpinnings, you must have this book.

While the book doesn’t cover everything, it does cover a lot, and it includes references (helpfully further labelled as appropriate for kids or geeks) so you can learn more.

A must have for engineers, science types, or anyone who’s ever wondered how things work. ( )
2 vote cmc | Apr 25, 2007 |
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