Engineering

Systems Thinking

People focus too much on materials or individual members in structure, and not enough on systems. You can’t understand modern structures – by which I mean ones that follow the cutting edge of thought since the 1880s – without thinking about them in terms of structural systems. The picture above shows the underside of a …

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Staving Off Entropy

It’s not often that I read a newspaper op-ed and a scholarly essay by the same authors on the same topic, but Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel had “Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance!” in the New York Times in the summer of 2017 and then “After Innovation, Turn to Maintenance” in Technology and Culture the following January. …

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A Classic Failure

At the APT conference last week, I was one of the judges in the Student Design-Build Competition run by the Preservation Engineering Technical Committee. The most important thing to say on that topic is that, as in previous years, I was greatly impressed by the effort, thought, and creativity that the students brought to the …

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Machine Beauty

The picture above is the Kinzua Viaduct, a bridge built by the Erie Railroad in rural Pennsylvania. It collapsed, after years of little maintenance, during a storm in 2003. Depending on your taste, it’s either an example of the power and beauty inherent in the mechine, or of the banality of mechanical reproduction. Personally, I …

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