Building Big with David Macaulay

Book cover: 'Building Big with David Macaulay'
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This set of five DVDs by artist/architect David Macaulay provides many hours of insightful entertainment and a great introduction to science and technology on a practical level. Each themed film - Bridges, Skyscrapers, Tunnels, Domes and Dams - provides an in-depth historical treatment of the particular structure, interesting stories and overviews from famous structures, and basic scientific principles involved in each project.

The set features lots of great location shoots with David Macaulay narrating interesting stories and pointing out details of each site.

To give you an idea, "Tunnels" covers aqueducts and water-carrying tunnels of Ancient Rome, early canal and train tunnels of the 19th century (particularly in England and the U.S.), archaic and modern methods of tunnel digging (particularly under rivers), issues involving tunnel safety (both during the project and during use afterwards) with a special emphasis (in all areas) on the building of the Channel Tunnel in the 1990s between England and France. Each video also includes a "Building Small" segment and pamphlet so that families can tackle simple science projects at home that demonstrate principles of architecture.

Our family has really enjoyed these movies - from the four year old all the way up to Mom and Dad. The material is substantial, but easy to understand (particularly with the excellent use of computer graphics and artistic sketches).

I would recommend parental supervision with young children, at least for the first viewing. There are a few things that might be scary for little ones, such as a spooky introduction to the Tunnel show and some photos from an airplane crash in to the Empire State Building that might be a little disturbing. There are also some points in other movies that would be worthy of discussion, such as the environmental issues that come up in the Dams movie. Those are all the "sticky" parts I can remember at this point. I am hoping to view them again soon and will add to this list as needed. Overall, I consider the series to be very worthwhile and enjoyable.

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Set of 5 DVDs or Videos (approximately 1 hour each)

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