Built to create a lasting impression

4th November 2005 at 00:00
LOUIS I KAHN. By Robert McCarter. Phaidon Press. pound;49.95

TEACHING DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. By Douglas Newton. Paul Chapman Publishing. pound;17.99

BRUNEL - THE MAN WHO BUILT THE WORLD. By Steven Brindle. Orion Publishing Group. pound;25

Bill Richmond reviews architecture and engineering books

Books containing case studies relating to the design of buildings together with the philosophy behind them are valuable not only for undergraduates and architects, but also for key stage 45 students in art and design and technology.

Robert McCarter's Louis I Kahn should be an inspiration for students and teachers in any design and technology, engineering or art department.

Louis Kahn started his career in his home town of Philadelphia, where the University of Pennsylvania was the foremost university for architecture in the US in the early and mid-20th century.

The book has a chapter on the development of a philosophy of architecture at that time, and goes into detail on how Kahn integrated classical training with his modern ideas.

This beautifully produced 500-page book could be used not only for the insight it gives into Kahn's designs, but also for its extensive series of concept drawings, detailed plans, photographs of architectural models, and sketches and photographs of completed projects. The accompanying text outlines the aims of each of the case studies and the problems that arose.

A biography of Kahn gives the background to the development of his architectural philosophy and commissions he was involved in. It also sets him in context with other names of the time, such as Buckminster-Fuller, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Douglas Newton's Teaching Design and Technology gives encouragement to creativity in younger pupils. Aimed at teaching ages three to 11, it contains a variety of suggestions for activities, providing more than just a collection of ideas; there are many suggestions that might help children plan and work towards quality products.

An early section, entitled "What is Design Technology?", illustrates how particular designers and inventors have tackled problems, and how they needed to understand materials and scientific principles to solve them.

Teachers developing experience in design and technology will appreciate the helpful lists of tools and resources, as well as the emphasis on safety. In a section encouraging further reading there is a useful summary of resources that helps experienced and newly qualified teachers. There are also photocopiable pages for pupils to complete, for example "How will I make my idea?", "My plan" and "How did I do?".

While the book is aimed at primary teachers, it could just as easily help early secondary level work.

To any student of engineering, the ships, bridges, railways and tunnels of Isambard Kingdom Brunel are intriguing and absorbing. Steven Brindle's Brunel - The Man Who Built the World highlights Brunel as one of the most inspiring and compelling figures of the 19th century.It includes an introduction illuminating the times in which both he and his father, Marc, a French royalist who fled the revolution, lived and worked.

The chapters detail Isambard's relationship with his father, the construction of the railway from London to Bristol, his bridges and the three great ships (The Great Britain, The Great Western and The Great Eastern).

The content is detailed, but nonetheless entertaining for anyone simply requiring an enjoyable book.

Brunel was renowned for adventurous and unprecedented engineering projects, such as the Rotherhithe tunnel under the Thames, which was designed by his father and constructed during the 1820s, requiring excavation through sections of quicksand.

The railways of the 1830s required a whole variety of similarly adventurous projects. The Bristol railway, subsequently known as the Great Western Railway, was the longest railway proposed to date, at 118 miles, and required a flat and level route to be found and surveyed.

The book is filled with magnificent lithographs, design sketches, photographs and paintings of a wide variety of Brunel's undertakings. It gives an intriguing insight into the character of a great engineer, pursuing sometimes too ambitious ideas and plans.

Bill Richmond is head of design and technology at St John School, Epping

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