Built by Animals
Wide Eyed, 2022
77pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
In my region, one of Australia’s greatest construction ventures, the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme, which has been described as “one of the civil engineering wonders of the modern world, the Snowy Scheme consists of nine power stations, 16 major dams, 80 kilometres of aqueducts and 145 kilometres of interconnected tunnels” was constructed in post-war Australia and now its expansion is well underway. As they bore through 27km of earth to connect Tantangara to Talbingo one wonders how they can do this successfully both holding the water back in the dams in the first place and then join them without the tunnels collapsing. Perhaps, as they did their designs, the architects and engineers looked to Mother Nature, specifically the dam-building techniques of beavers and the underground architecture of ants for ideas and solutions.
Perhaps they were inspired by a book such as this which looks closely at the best architects, designers and builders of the animal and plant worlds and how they build amazing structures how they create super-strong materials and find clever ways to keep warm or cool, all with very limited tools. Divided into five sections – construction, materials, shapes, energy, and water – a representative of each species not only explains what, how and why they do what they do but shows how this is being translated into human-made structures so that our buildings of the future are more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Whether it’s the white, curved, shell of the desert snail giving insight into cooling without air-conditioning or the way the shimmering feathers of the peacock’s tail reflect light, or even the Australian thorny devil’s unique drinking habits, each double page spread is introduced by a new creature telling their own story to the reader in simple, direct language that just makes for fascinating but easy-to-understand reading.
This is the latest of a number of books by this author including Invented by Animals that would not only complement the theme of this year’s reviews of how the world began and developed, but also any STEM curriculum focus as Dorion sees her role as “inspiring children to explore the complex systems of the world we live in and to take positive actions towards a sustainable future.” By allowing the creatures themselves to give the explanations not only does she reach the reader but offers a new way of approaching what could be a not-so-fascinating topic. Certainly, until I picked up Built By Animals I never drew any sort of correlation between what is happening less than 100km away with the ants who build their burrows in the driveway!
A must-have for all your curious builders, particularly those who frequent the Lego wall or the makerspace.