Paper $40.00 ISBN: 9781861893284 Published June 2008 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $15.50 to $27.00 ISBN: 9781861894700 Published June 2008


Trevor Turpin


Trevor Turpin

Distributed for Reaktion Books

256 pages | 32 color plates, 86 halftones | 6 x 8 2/5 | © 2008
Paper $40.00 ISBN: 9781861893284 Published June 2008 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $15.50 to $27.00 ISBN: 9781861894700 Published June 2008

Rivers are one of nature’s most vital energy sources, and their power can be efficiently harnessed through the construction of dams. But now dams have become a controversial engine in the race toward technological advancement, so much so that the World Commission on Dams convened in 1998 to debate the issue. Are dams a help to society or an agent of environmental destruction? Trevor Turpin explores the answers to that question here in his comprehensive historical chronicle.

Among the most amazing feats of human engineering, a dam can sustain societies in a multitude of ways, as 40,000 of them around the world provide such things as electricity, water for farms and cities, and canals for boat navigation. Turpin traces their development, design, and consequences from the Industrial Revolution to now, examining edifices in China, Las Vegas, and places in between. The often contentious debate between environmentalists, architects, and engineers, Dam shows, is a complex one that pits the benefits of dams against the long-term ecological health of nations.

Neither a polemic against dams nor a defense of their proliferation, Dam offers a judicious and in-depth account of this cornerstone of our modern age.

1   Dam as Symbol and Function
2   Dam Designers and Builders
3   Dam Beauty and Dam Proud
4   Dam Failure
5   Dam Angry
6  What Environment?
Select Bibliography
Photographic Acknowledgements
Review Quotes
Building Design

"Here, dams take centre stage as their design, construction, beauty, failures and environmental consequences are analysed."

The Environmentalist

"Dam investigates some of the world’s most famous and awe-inspiring dams and will be of interest to engineers, historians and environmentalists at all levels . . . beautifully illustrated."


“With the current movement toward dam removals in the Western world, it is interesting to see a book that treats dams as buildings of particular significance. This book’s approach is not technical, but historical. It presents dams under different perspectives: as symbols of dominance, works of designers, and objects of beauty. It also covers dam failures and the recent backlash against dams . . . Recommended.”

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