A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape

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Christopher Joyce, Tina Tennssen and Drew Reynolds, The Society for the History of Technology has chosen Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape for the 2006 Sally Hacker Prize, “established in 1999 to honor exceptional scholarship that reaches beyond the academy toward a broad audience.” The prize consists of a plaque, a certificate, and $2,000.

Sally Hacker (1936-1988) was a sociologist with a particular interest in the effect of technology on people's lives, and vice versa. I quote from an obituary written by her husband Barton C. Hacker:

Increasingly, technological change seemed to Sally the central engine of modern social change; unlike many, though, she refused to view technology as an independent factor.... To balance then common questions about the impact of technology on society, Sally started asking about the social shaping of technology—how human purposes and values, interests and motives, institutions and actions, produce our technologies. (Technology and Culture, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 925-929)

I am pleased and honored to have my book recognized by SHOT, and especially to be associated with Sally Hacker, whose emphasis on understanding technology in a human context I admire.


Christopher Joyce, Tina Tennssen and Drew Reynolds, Christopher Joyce of National Public Radio has launched a series of reports on the "Industriosphere," in which I am taking part. Early in November (2006) we spent a couple of days exploring and recording in and around Washington, DC. The first segment, in which we visited Washington's traffic-management center, was broadcast on Sunday, November 26th, on Weekend All Things Considered. For the time being, a page of information about the broadcast, with a link to audio, is available on the NPR web site at this URL. Also, there is now an Industriosphere Flickr group.

In the photo above Christopher Joyce (foreground), producer Tina Tennessen (right) and audio engineer Drew Reynolds are "getting ambi" (recording ambient sounds) near Thomas Circle in Washington, where we spent some time playing in traffic.

Update: A brief followup interview, discussing the wooden rooftop water tanks of New York City, was broadcast on Saturday 2 December 2006. The interview is online here. And a third segment, focusing on utility poles, aired on January 6, 2007 Hear it online: here.


The Royal Institute of British Architects included Infrastructure on the short list for its 2007 International Book Awards, in the "construction" category. There were five other contenders. The winner was Stone Conservation: Principles and Practice, edited by Alison Henry.

(reverse chronological order)

Reader reviews on As of March 2013 there are 38 reviews by amazon readers; 33 give the book a five-star rating (the best), and the other five reviews award it four stars. Amazon also reprints Anne Eisenberg's review from Scientific American.

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Blog review by Yakinikuman. Quo Legatis, Hic Scitis, February 14, 2011. Link. Excerpt: "Pretty interesting stuff and well written. The author avoids what could easily become a big heap of boredom. Lots of pictures throughout."

Blog posting by Steven Leckart. Cool Tools, March 27, 2009. Link. Excerpt: "Combining photos and clear, occasionally poetic descriptions, this thorough almanac deconstructs the general architecture and much of the minutiae found throughout the modernized world."

"Infrastructure Book Is Heavy, Useful, Beautiful." Blog posting by Dan Lorentz. Where, February 5, 2009. Link. Excerpt: "Under the Obama administration's stimulus plan (whatever precise final form it takes), the federal government will likely soon be spending billions to repair and improve America's infrastructure. To give some hint about what 'infrastructure' refers to, reporters often use a shorthand phrase like: 'things such as roads and bridges.' Which is fine, because we all know there's a lot more to infrastructure than roads and bridges. But what else is there exactly? What besides roads and bridges does the term encompass? One way—a very rewarding way—to find out is to read Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape by Brian Hayes."

"Infrastructure and Aesthetics." Article by Adam Meyer. NewGeography, January 25, 2009. Link. Excerpt: "In his 2005 book Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape, Brian Hayes surveys the built environment with an undaunted appreciation of the vast networks of infrastructure systems in America. Hayes, a writer for American Scientist, argues that common understanding of infrastructure is just as important as an understanding of nature itself."

"What I like." Review by Kate Davidson. Concord Monitor, June 23, 2008. Link.

Review by Adina Levin. BookBlog, September 9, 2007. Link.

"Book: Infrastructure by Brian Hayes: Fascinating guide to the industrial landscape." Review by Matthew Dixon Cowles, Mondo's Info, August 10, 2007. Link.

Review by Terry S. Reynolds. Technology and Culture Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 633-635, July, 2007.

"2 Books for Big Kids." Brief review on the Views of the Northeast weblog, May 30, 2007. Link.

DL.TV Television review by Patrick Norton and Robert Heron. Broadcast May 1, 2007. Available online: Link. (Review begins at 3:00 and continues through 5:00 into the program.)

Brief review by Michael Upchurch. The Seattle Times, December 10, 2006. Link.

"Esoterica: Weirdly, I liked these too." Brief review by Erica Wagner. The Times (London), November 25, 2006, page 14.

Brief review by Victoria Ellis. The Darlington and Stockton Times, York (UK) November 24, 2006, p. 24.

Review by John F. Potter. The Environmentalist Vol. 26, p. 333, October, 2006.

"Beautiful, to one who sees." Review by Julian Satterthwaite. The Daily Yomiuri (Japan), September 16, 2006.

Review by Sue Baker. Publishing News, August, 2006, pp. 13-14.

"Landskap bortom naturen." Illustrated essay by Magnus Larsson. (In Swedish.) Arkitektur, 7-2006, pages 28-35.

Review by Graham Findlay. Disability Wales News, Issue 68, June-July, 2006, page 19.

"Dusting off the forgotten gems." Brief review by Louise Jury and Alain de Botton. The Independent 24 April 2006. Link.

Review by Peter Stegner. (In German.) Baumeister Architectural Journal, April, 2006.

Review by Christopher Wiebe. Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Alberta), 23 March 2006. Link.

"The Answers to 'What Is That Thing?'" Interview with David Siegel. PE: The Magazine for Professional Engineers, March, 2006, page 40.

"Zie Onze Wegen" Review by H. J. A. Hofland. (In Dutch.) Nederlandse Literatour, March, 2006.

"Roads, Pylons, and Other Love Objects: Alain de Botton on the Book That Opened His Eyes" Commentary by Alain de Botton. The Independent Extra, February 24, 2006, p. 3. (See also previous item.)

"Secrets of the World About Us: The Landscape as You've Never Looked at It Before" Excerpt with introduction by Alain de Botton. The Independent Extra, February 24, 2006, pp. 1-8. (See also next item.)

"FYI." Brief review by Martha Harbison. Popular Science, vol. 268, no. 2, February, 2006, page 91.

"Weekday." Radio interview with Steve Scher. KUOW, Seattle, January 24, 2006, 9:00 to 10:00 am. Link.

"How Great Is That?" Brief review by Tim Gideon., January 24, 2006. Link

"My Week: Alain de Botton." Discussion and review by Alain de Botton. The Observer, January 22, 2006. Link.

"The Glossies." Review by John J. Miller. The Wall Street Journal, January 7-8, 2006, page 10.

"Technopuzzlers." Article by Brian Hayes (based in part on material from Infrastructure) with a quiz by Agniezska Biskup, art by Robert Byrd. Muse, vol. 10, no. 1, January 2006, pages 20-28.

"Browsings." Brief review. Unsigned. Science, vol. 310, no. 5756, December 23, 2005, page 1907. Link

"Coffee Table Fare: Extra-large books hold extra-large topics." Review by Gary Budzak and Bill Eichenberger. (Discusses 23 books.) The Columbus Dispatch, December 3, 2005. Link

Untitled. Review. SciTech Book News, vol. 29, no. 4, December 2005, page 173. Link

"A Field Guide for the Modern Man" Review by Tom Campbell. Paperwork: The Newsletter of the Regulator Bookshop,November-December 2005, page 4.

"Tall, Stark, & Handsome." Review by Elizabeth Svoboda. Wired, November 2005, page 088. Link

"Book on Industrial Landscape Portrays FAA Infrastructure." Article by Lee Ewing. ATO Online (News and information for Air Traffic Organization employees), November 18, 2005. Link

"Eye on Books." Radio interview with Bill Thompson. November 15, 2005. Link

"A tour of the 'unnatural' side of America." Review by Jim Rossi. Asheville Global Report, November 8, 2005. (Reprinted from Grist Magazine.) Link

"Look! It's the rare Sudbury Inco smelter: An industrial field guide." Review by Charles Mandel. National Post (Canada), November 3, 2005, p. A9. (Syndicated by CanWest News Service.)

"The Speakeasy with Dorian" Radio interview with Dorian Devins. WFMU, October 31, 2005, 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Link

"Built Trip: Brian Hayes' Infrastructure offers a tour of the 'unnatural' side of America." Review by Jim Rossi. Grist Magazine, October 25, 2005. Link

"The Ghosts in the Machines." Essay by Brian Hayes (based in part on material from Infrastructure). Natural History, vol. 114, no. 7, September 2005, pages 36-41.

"Everything That Isn't Nature." Review by Anne Eisenberg. Scientific American, vol. 293, no. 3, September 2005, pages 118-120. Link Text also appears at