Drawing on her own biography as much as her technical expertise, a London-based structural engineer explains how buildings, bridges, and other structures have come to be built and meditates upon their impact on our lives.
Agrawal has a gift for rendering complex phenomena in simple terms, such as her explanation of the critical failures that led to the collapse of the Twin Towers. For those of us who are architecturally inclined but somewhat maths-averse, it’s a real treat.
Unravelling the surprising stories behind our built environment, it takes readers on a global romp through the ages, from the ancient aqueducts of Nineveh to the double-stacked elevators of the Burj Khalifa ... Writing in a chatty style (which sometimes verges on the patronising tone of a children’s TV presenter), she weaves accessible explanations of scientific principles together with engaging historical stories and personal anecdotes ... Agrawal traces each idea back to its origins, before bringing it up to date with a contemporary example, a format that allows you to dip in and out.
Part travelogue, part history lesson and part tutorial, her book infects us with the passion she feels for what she does all day as a London-based engineer for a multinational firm ... Buildings serve as one spine of her story ... Bridges serve as another recurring theme ... the book as a whole is a decidedly personal one. It includes regular, and somewhat distracting at times, references to Ms. Agrawal’s childhood in upstate New York and Mumbai, her trips abroad with her parents, and ultimately her experience of finding a husband ... Built conveys insight into the built environment in an unusually accessible style—the kind of insight that will help lay readers look differently at the world around them.