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The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper Hardcover – November 10, 2011

38 customer reviews

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A Look Inside The Heights

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About the Author

Kate Ascher received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in government from the London School of Economics and her B.A. in political science from Brown University. Ascher worked at Vornado Realty Trust in New York City before taking up her current position managing Happold Consulting's U.S. practice, and she serves on the faculty of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; Unknown edition (November 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203039
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on November 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of us have go in and out of tall buildings on a regular basis. These buildings are so well made, we rarely think about the complex systems that come together in order to build and maintain them. In "The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper", Kate Ascher takes us on a layman's tour of these complicated structures.

Ascher begins by telling us about the history of Skyscrapers and the design issues architects and engineers need to address before building them. Such important issues as zoning and the underlying ecomomic issues that drive construction are also covered. Although these details are important, what really makes "The Heights" such a pleasure to read is when Ascher starts detailing the steps required to raise a Skyscraper. Detailed illustrations accompany her descriptions of such interesting things as the installion of glass curtain walls and the pumping of concrete to building tops. Granted, elevator design and the functioning of air handling units is not everybody's cup of tea. But if you are the type of geek who thinks mechanical floors and high-rise fire protection systems are interesting, this is your book.

Keep in mind "The Heights" was written for the general public. If you find tall buildings to be inherently interesting but do not have a background in architecture, engineering or any of the trade crafts, this is the book for you. Due to the inherent complexity of these structures, I am sure that specialists will have bones to pick with Ascher's descriptions. Nevertheless, I challange these critics to find a better single volume on skyscraper construction for the general public. In the final analysis, "The Heights" is well written, beautifully illustrated and a real pleasure to read. Highly recommended.
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99 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Haans on November 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this book. I am interested in architecture and structural design, and this book promised to cover both. It is a nice format with each 1 or 2 page spread being a separate article on a topic. The illustrations are very well done, but reading the text I found some really bad technical errors.

For example Page 52 "Steel":

"The production of steel involves melting of iron ore and the addition of other elements, often called alloys. The mix of these alloys determines not only the hardness of the steel but other properties as well. For example the addition of chromium leaves a hard oxide on the surface of the steel, giving us what we know as "stainless steel"."

The only thing correct in this quote is the first phrase. "The production of steel involves melting of iron ore and the addition of other elements,"... Everything beyond that first comma is just plain wrong.

An alloy is a homogenous mixture of two or more metals or metallic elements or of metals and non metaloid elements. Steel itself is an alloy of mostly iron and carbon, the addition of chromium and molybdenum creates a higher stregnth steel alloy, not stainless steel which is an alloy of chromium, nickle and iron. The "hard oxide on the surface" is simply nonsense.

Had the passage above been written thus it would be more correct:

The production of steel involves the melting of iron and the addition of carbon to the metal. Alloys are created by the addition of other elements such as chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium, to give different properties such as hardness and yield strength. For instance the addition of at least 11% chromium gives us what we call "stainless steel".
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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful By jimmyblueyes on December 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's a little disconcerting when the first page of a book is a Disclaimer from the publisher, stating that it is not responsible for the factual inaccuracies within. Yet that's exactly what you'll see here, along with a separate credit for the "researcher" so that the author doesn't get blamed either.

I'd blame the author anyway. The underlying concept for this book is terrific, explaining the many components that go into modern construction, why they are needed and how they interact. But too often, the author goes off on tangents that are apparently needed to fill each page with pulp simply to accommodate the graphics. By the end, author Kate Ascher is telling us what urban activist "Jane Jacobs would think." How does she know?! Jane Jacobs has been dead for years. This dubious journalism has no place in a book where facts should be paramount to accompany the graphics. Instead, there is far too much filler. Better to have less text (therefore a lower price?) than to fill the book with typing that only diminishes the impact of the information contained within. Ms. Ascher needed a tougher editor; her text does not leave anyone begging for more.

In its favor, this book has wonderful graphics.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dave Brown on January 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As many of the reviews of this book have stated, The Heights is a very nicely designed and illustrated book; however, the lack of depth on almost every topic leaves even an interested reader wanting more. Essentially, each 2-page spread is dedicated to one topic, with text covering perhaps 30-40% of the pages; the remainder is comprised of captioned illustrations and occasionally a photo. Because of this, it feels a bit like reading an issue of People magazine, where even a seemingly important topic only merits a handful of paragraphs. I heard Ascher on NPR and thought, erroneously, that this would be an interesting history of skyscrapers and a thorough explanation of the many elements of which they are comprised. Instead, what we get (on p. 86-7, for example) is 16 illustrations, each with a 1- or 2-sentence description, of the various workers who assemble a skyscraper. While I don't want to deny the importance of the hooker-on ("[who] prepares beams and columns for crane lifting by finding the exact center of each piece of steel. He or she sets the pace of the gang"), that information is also not at all interesting, compelling, or particularly insightful. We all know skyscrapers are assembled piece by piece by a whole army of professionals--I was hoping this book would give me some actual insights rather than the most mundane of details.

While the history section of the book was interesting, and filled closer to 50% of each of its 8 pages with text, after that a quick skim would allow the reader to jump to those topics that are less well known and/or of particular interest (mass dampers to counterbalance wind loads, for example).
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