A skyscraper in Newark
June 13, 2012 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to write a fictional short story about the construction of a skyscraper in Newark and an incident of corruption that threatens the structural integrity of the building (based loosely on the Citygroup Center incident. Note: I'm not saying this crisis was caused by corruption). I am seeking books, articles, photos and videos (especially), and general inspirational material on modern skyscraper construction and, particularly, any incidents similar to the Citygroup crisis. Additionally, anything worthwhile on the city of Newark (I've watched Brick City, which was the primary inspiration for the setting). Many thanks to all in advance!
posted by smithsmith to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
There was an episode of the Math Drama Numb3rs based on the incident you mention. It's Episode 4 of Season 1, and I believe it's available on Netflix Instant Watch, if you have it. That may be interesting or useful in some way.
posted by brentajones at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2012

There is a four part series on building a skyscraper in the TV series Modern Marvels. Here is Episode 1 of 4
posted by Flood at 3:33 PM on June 13, 2012

Oops - I linked the Episode 2 of 4 - but from my link above, you can find all 4 episodes.
posted by Flood at 3:35 PM on June 13, 2012

I'd recommend reading Why Buildings Fall Down, by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori. The book discusses and explains structural failures of all kinds, including several with causes related to the ones in which you are interested. Here are three in which you might be particularly interested:

Standard Oil Tower, Chicago, IL: insufficient thickness of marble cladding
Hancock Tower, Boston, MA: multiple engineering flaws
Hyatt Regency, Kansas City, MO: structural failure
posted by mattdidthat at 5:17 PM on June 13, 2012

Salvadori and Levy's books are good, as are Henry Petroski's such as To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design. You may also want to check out works like David Macaulay's Unbuilding.

Other famous failures to look into (no question covered by the above material somewhere) include:
Hartford Civic Center
L'Ambience Plaza

You'll likely get much mileage out of these:
Failures Wiki.
MATDL failure case studies

Extreme Engineering is a must-watch as well. It covers design and construction of many types of structures, from bridges to skyscrapers; you may find the one on the Turning Torso building in Malmö, Sweden relevant.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on June 13, 2012

Great suggestions all! Many thanks for your help.
posted by smithsmith at 5:46 PM on June 14, 2012

I think the only weak link in your building may be the "corruption" aspect of it, although there are ways to make it work. Buildings fail for any number of reasons, usually from oversight or error. To me, corruption would involve paying someone off in order to have a structural failure - and I can't think of any step in the process of making a building where that could happen other than when the plans are being reviewed by the building department, or something with the building inspector during construction, and plan checkers and inspectors are some pretty small potato type guys who won't have much of an opportunity or motive for grifting. It's possible that they could be coerced into approving something by a higher-up political figure, but then you'd probably also have to work out a way to kill them off so that they don't go whistle-blower once the failure happens.
posted by LionIndex at 5:41 PM on June 16, 2012

To me, corruption would involve paying someone off in order to have a structural failure

New York alone in recent history has a deadly crane collapse and elevator accident that suggest relevant scenarios. In terms of corruption we tend to think of bribery, but in sophisticated societies a more prevalent, or at least insidious, type is regulatory capture.
posted by dhartung at 3:11 PM on June 17, 2012

Simply put, would regulatory capture in this sort of instance involve some industry stacking the staff of the building department with their lackeys? Inserting themselves into the organizations that write the building code? That almost happens already with various ANSI, SMACNA, and ASHRAE standards that get written into code.
posted by LionIndex at 4:03 PM on June 17, 2012

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