The Architecture of Steam: Waterworks and the Victorian Sanitary Crisis

James Douet

The Architecture of Steam: Waterworks and the Victorian Sanitary Crisis
Liverpool University Press
United Kingdom
31 January 2023

The Architecture of Steam: Waterworks and the Victorian Sanitary Crisis

James Douet

Steam pumping stations are exceptional buildings, a rousing, eloquent architecture designed by engineers, and an industrial edifice intended to express civic pride. They were invented, perfected and superseded in barely a century during the determined struggle to overcome the historic threat to urban life posed by industrialization. Of the buildings of the industrial period only train stations can compete with waterworks for stylistic bravura, carried over into the cool, tiled interiors and the sparkle and warmth of the cherished steam engine.

This first comprehensive account of a remarkable fusion of machinery and structure weaves together architectural fashions, shifting social conditions and engineering inventiveness to show why such care was taken by the communities that commissioned them and by the men who built them, and what makes us take such pleasure in them today. British waterworks heritage is a global reference, for the historical significance of the sites themselves but also for the conservation of the many preserved waterworks, often extending to the reanimation of historic steam engines. No prior knowledge of architecture, sanitation or steam technology is required to enjoy this spirited and richly-illustrated account of a singular British building.

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