BUILT - The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures

Bloomsbury Publishing, 8 February 2018

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Imagine you woke up one morning, and everything that engineers had created disappeared. What would you see?

No cars, no houses; no phones, bridges or roads. No tunnels under tidal rivers, no soaring skyscrapers. Engineering is an intrinsic and intimate part of our existence, shaping the spaces in which reside. We cannot live without it.

In BUILT, structural engineer Roma Agrawal takes a unique look at how construction has evolved from the mud huts of our ancestors to towers of steel that reach into the sky. She unearths how humans have tunnelled through kilometres of solid mountain, bridged the widest and deepest of rivers, and tamed Nature’s precious – and elusive – water resources. She tells vivid tales of the pioneers behind landmark builds such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Burj Khalifa, and examines, from an engineering perspective, tragedies like the collapse of the Twin Towers. She reveals how she designs a building so it will stand strong – even in the face of gales, fire, earthquakes and explosions.

With colourful stories of her life-long fascination with buildings – and her own hand-drawn illustrations – Roma uncovers the extraordinary secret lives of structures. 


"The  Shard engineer has long been fascinated by the technical ingenuity of  design. Now she wants to help us see the built environment with similar  wonder" - The Observer

"She weaves accessible explanations of scientific principles together with engaging historical stories and personal anecdotes." - The Guardian 

"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." - The Financial Times

"Agrawal’s  text is richly informed with academic, historical and anecdotal asides  as well as her own line drawings to illustrate her technical points." - E&T Magazine

"She  writes with an engineer’s computational precision, balanced with  charming approximation: how better to explain strength differentials to  laypeople than with elephants?" - The Arts Desk

Thanks to my agent PEW Literary and publisher Bloomsbury Publishing

Praise for Built

Roma makes the complex principles of structural engineering accessible to everyone with clear explanations and engaging illustrations. It has made me suddenly look at every building I pass in a new way ― Ellen Stofan, former Chief Scientist at NASA

Roma Agrawal makes engineering thrilling, accessible and thoroughly enjoyable. Built is another great example of how women can write beautifully about so-called male subjects. Bring on the female engineers! -- Andrea Wulf, historian and author of The Invention of Nature

A wonderfully absorbing book about an engineer and her passion for construction ― Professor Mark Miodownik, materials engineer, broadcaster and author of Stuff Matters

A charming tribute to one woman's love of engineering. Full of fascinating facts and personal stories ― Angela Saini, author of Inferior and Superior

A necessary reminder of the wonderful human ingenuity behind the world's greatest engineering projects, from Roman aqueducts to London's magnificent Shard. Built will inspire readers of every stripe ― Erica Wagner, author of Chief Engineer

Reading your story was a very moving experience for me. We often see books by doctors, politicians, entrepreneurs and the like but to read a book in your style by an engineer… and not just any engineer but a structural engineer… was really something. I laughed, cried, calculated and read sections aloud to my colleagues and friends. I particularly related to your personal stories of visiting incredible structures all over the world. You captured so beautifully many experiences I have also shared in my travels but have struggled to put into words. -- Alice N, Structural engineer

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