Structures: or Why Things Don't Fall Down

J. E. Gordon

Introduced by Jonathan Glancey

J. E. Gordon reveals the unseen forces that hold up buildings, bridges and aeroplanes – but also animals, plants and humans. From space travels to the complexity of the human body - all the answers are here.

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Structures: or Why Things Don't Fall Down

‘Practically everything,’ says J. E. Gordon, ‘is a structure of one kind or another.’ Structures: or Why Things Don’t Fall Down reveals the unseen forces that hold up buildings, bridges and aeroplanes – but also animals, plants and human beings. How do our tendons work? What do Chinese boats have in common with the wings of a bat? Why did the ancients take the wheels off their chariots at night? How did a Parisian couturier’s designs contribute to space travel and military technology? The answers are all here in this engrossing narrative.

Production Details

Structures: or Why Things Don
  • Bound in buckram.
  • Blocked with a design by Adam McCauley.
  • Set in Sabon.
  • 408 pages.
  • 25 pages of colour photographs.
  • Book size: 9½" x 6¼".

'Bad designs can always be eaten by good ones'

J. E. Gordon began his career as a naval architect before designing aircraft during the Second World War and later becoming Professor of Materials Science at Reading University. Writing with wit and clarity, he brings his subject alive for even the least technically minded reader, demystifying concepts such as ‘shear and torsion’ and the difference between stress and strain. He explores the history of design, aesthetics and accidents such as the catastrophic sinking of the H. M. S. Captain in 1870. Above all, he pays tribute to nature, the greatest designer and also the most pragmatic – ‘after all, bad designs can always be eaten by good ones.’

First published in 1978, this book has inspired numerous sequels and spin-offs, and was mandatory reading in US and USSR military academies. Our edition is introduced by architectural critic and author Jonathan Glancey, who explains why the book ‘remains as valuable an insight into the nature of structure as it was more than thirty years ago’. To illustrate, we have chosen a dazzling array of photographs showing engineering landmarks such as the Forth Bridge and the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (1935), as well as more unusual images: an X-ray of a water lily leaf; St Simeon’s monastery in Syria, and a fuselage pressure test at the Boeing factory, Seattle. The binding design, by Adam McCauley, was inspired by the Empire State Building.


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Review by rncarhart on 9th Feb 2016

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"The subtitle may give it away a little here, but this book turned out to be one of the more enjoyable I've read lately. Yes, a engineering book on structures...and it certainly did not fall down for ..." [read more]

Review by Nacarat on 12th Aug 2013

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"This is the best version of the book that is, in my opinion, the perfect introduction for anyone going into the fields of engineering or architecture."

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