CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 11. . . .November 18, 2016
Comprising the “Canadian Structures” series, these titles introduce readers to some remarkable feats of engineering and provide some of the history behind their creation as well as the technological aspects considered in the building process. Each title features four to six specific and mostly well-known structures as well as a double-page spread which discusses the forces of nature that act upon that type of edifice. It is difficult to determine the exact target audience because the books’ layout, large, simple text surrounded by plenty of white space, and the short sentences lend themselves to a younger audience, but the scientific concepts are rather complicated, making the books more suitable for an older audience. The scientific concepts- specifically, forces such as gravity, tension, compression, shear and torsion- and methods of construction are often beyond the scope of the average third-grader. Even with the diagrams provided, readers will not readily grasp the idea of how or why these forces act upon a particular structure. In a classroom setting, however, a teacher and the students could create some models and conduct experiments to demonstrate how certain forces impact the stability of a building. “At a Glance” text boxes provide quick facts about each of the featured structures, while “Inquiry Questions” invite readers to ponder some of the concepts. One example is the question in Bridges: “How can the strength of different materials be altered to support heavy loads? What role do girders play in bridge construction?” One of the positive aspects of this series is that readers will not only learn about various innovations, methods and materials used in building construction, but they will also see that even experts, such as engineers, make mistakes, but they work together to find solutions to problems. On the negative side, the scientific and technological concepts are not explained clearly for the target audience, and the books’ price is too steep for the amount of information. In some cases, there are only 10 to 12 pages of actual text. Illustrations consist of a couple of diagrams as well as large, mostly full-page, colour photographs. Perhaps the inclusion of a few photographs showing some of the discussed construction techniques and materials (e.g. slip-form, rebar) would have been beneficial. A table of contents, a glossary, an index and a brief list of books and websites for further study are provided.
Bridges highlights P.E.I.’s Confederation Bridge, the longest beam bridge in the world that crosses frozen waters; B.C.’s Alex Fraser Bridge, the second-longest cable-stayed bridge in North America; the award-winning Athabasca River Bridge, built for extreme weights up to three times more than other bridges of its kind; and the Deh Cho Bridge which crosses the Mackenzie River all year long and is built to withstand the force of the river’s icy current.
Roads explains the types of materials used in road construction (chip seal, concrete, asphalt and gravel) and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Five major highways are featured: Icefields Parkway which links Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, the construction of which was challenging due to the need to clear rock and make the road safe for travel on the steep, and often slippery, slopes; the 12,800 km long Trans-Canada Highway, 20 years in the making, which winds through various types of terrain ranging from swampland to mountain passes; the Dempster Highway, the only Canadian highway that crosses the Arctic Circle where permafrost creates a huge challenge; and the Sea-to-Sky Highway that connects Vancouver to Whistler. The construction of this highway necessitated the use of mechanically stabilized earth walls (MSE) made of concrete, rock and soil with steel grids embedded in the walls for extra strength.
Until the late 1800s, there were very few tall buildings, but with new construction methods and materials, specifically the use of metal frames able to support more weight, skyscrapers soon became popular in large cities. Skyscrapers describes several structures including Winnipeg’s first skyscraper, the Royal Tower which is also the oldest in western Canada and was built using the latest technology at the time- a reinforced concrete foundation and a steel frame. Other skyscrapers mentioned in this title are First Canadian Place, Canada’s tallest building, the hub of Toronto’s financial district and the first to use structural steel tubes; Montreal’s 1000 De La Gauchetière whose lightweight outer walls are made out of aluminum and glass; the crescent-shaped Bow in Calgary which employs a strong core of wide, open columns and dampers on the roof to counteract sway; and Vancouver’s Living Shangri-La, a 200-metre high hotel and condominium complex.
Architects and engineers must consider a number of factors when designing stadiums- usage, capacity and the effects of weather. In Stadiums, readers will learn about TD Place, home to the Ottawa Redblacks of the CFL. Built of concrete and steel for stability, this structure has had a number of additions over the years, including a roof, bleacher expansion and a second tier. Other stadiums discussed in this title are Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the tallest inclined structure in the world, built for the 1976 Olympics but beset by many structural problems; Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, the second-largest sports venue in Canada and once also plagued by weather problems, specifically water leakage, which had to be remedied; and B.C. Place, home to the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps. B.C. Place boasts a new retractable roof made from TENARA, a translucent fabric that allows natural light to filter through and does not crack or crease, enabling it to be folded quickly without any damage. Finally, there is information about Roger’s Centre (formerly the SkyDome) in Toronto, a glass and concrete structure that is the first stadium in the world to have a retractable roof which opens all the way. Rogers Centre has an arena, health club, hotel and retail space, and its LED screens display a range of 4.3 trillion colours.
Towers covers, among others, the CN Tower which, in 1995, was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. This tower took 40 months to build and has an antenna made from 44 pieces assembled on the ground, each of which was lifted and put in place by a large helicopter. Other towers featured in this title include Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, built using a slip-forming technique and strong enough to withstand heavy winds; Calgary Tower, the first structure in western Canada built to withstand earthquakes; Vancouver Lookout which offers 360-degree views of the city as well as the Pacific Ocean and the North Shore Mountains; and Cabot Tower in St. John’s Newfoundland, built of red sandstone between 1898 and 1900. Cabot Tower was originally used for flag signalling, and, for a time, served as a Marconi wireless station.
Tunnels are built for different reasons, ranging from mining and transporting water to cities and towns, to transporting people and goods through mountains. Linking two cities, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is Canada’s longest tunnel and the world’s only tunnel that allows vehicles to cross international borders. Tunnels also features the Mount Macdonald Tunnel which replaced a dangerous stretch of railroad track near Rogers Pass with a paved concrete track and the Montreal Metro which runs automatically without the benefit of a driver or conductor and is the first subway to run on rubber tires instead of wheels. An interesting fact about the Metro is that each underground tunnel and station is unique. Filled with public art, the stations differ in style and layout which helps passengers to distinguish one station from the other, particularly helpful to those with visual and other disabilities.
Generally speaking, this is a good series, but too pricy and somewhat technical for its intended audience.
Recommended with Reservations.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.