From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9-Severance takes readers on a leisurely stroll through the history of American skyscrapers and the technologies that enabled their construction, visiting various schools of architecture and several famous buildings along the way. While some modern structures like the Sears Tower, World Trade Center, Citicorp Building, and Transamerica Pyramid are included, emphasis is on 19th- and early-20th century engineering and architecture. Important and often unheralded innovations like the steam elevator and safety brake and the role of fire safety codes in building design are amply covered. Chicago and New York, credited as "the incubators of the modern skyscraper," provide the setting for most of the narrative action. Biographical tidbits on some notable architects and engineers are woven into the narrative. Black-and-white archival and current photographs of structures and occasional portraits appear throughout. Skyscrapers is more suitable for browsers and history buffs than for students seeking hard data; this is not the source to consult for specific structural information. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating account of these highly visible structures that have had a profound effect on the way people live and work.Mary Ann Carcich, Suffolk County Community College Library, Riverhead, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
This informative history of modern skyscrapers may not attract many young readers. Beginning with the pyramids, Severance (Einstein, 1999, etc.) traces the history of tall buildings worldwide with particular emphasis on the US. He links technical advances, inventions, economic conditions, and social forces. For example, three factors were necessary for the development of multistory buildings: Otis invented the safety-brake, steam-powered elevator in the 1850s; plumbing technology permitted installation of bathrooms in upper floors; and the waterfront area of New York City needed more office space. Short biographical information about the lives and accomplishments of the inventors and the builders put the buildings in a historical context. Severance describes many of the problems related to these huge buildings. At the Sears Tower in Chicago, it took half an hour for some people to get from street level to their offices. The Hancock Tower in Boston had glass windows and doors pop out in high winds. Cost-cutting at the Citicorp building in New York City caused a major reconstruction to avoid building collapse in a hurricane. St. Peter's church built into the Citicorp building created major design problems. Severance describes the innovative construction techniques to overcome the problems but unfortunately neglects to mention the important work of sculptor Louise Nevelson in the interior design of the church. A bibliography and index are helpful. Words are descriptive, but interesting illustrations would have brought the text alive. Black-and-white exterior images of buildings do not do it. (Nonfiction. 10-12) -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.