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June 26, 2008


NEW YORK, June 26, 2008 –The collapse last summer of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River and the two fatal construction crane accidents in Manhattan this year have inspired a new exhibit on construction and engineering disasters at The City College of New York’s (CCNY) Morris R. Cohen Library. 

“Why Structures Fail: Challenges to Engineering Design” opens Monday July 14 and will run through Friday October 10. The exhibit is a collaborative effort of faculty and students from CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, the School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA) and the CCNY Libraries.  

The exhibit is located in the Library Atrium in CCNY’s North Academic Center building, 138th Street and Convent Ave., Manhattan. It is free and open to the public.

Using images and both non-technical and technical text (the latter by Grove School and SAUDLA faculty and students), the exhibit examines both infamous and less well known disasters that have tested engineers and architects over the past 150 years.  Among them: the South Fork Dam failure (1889); World Trade Center Building 7 collapse (2001) and the New Orleans Levees (2005). The exhibit highlights the importance of redundancy in engineering design.

“A key theme running through this exhibit is: anything that humans build will eventually fail, from either the wear and tear of years of use, natural disasters, accident, or human incompetence, ignorance, greed or malice,” wrote Loren D. Mendelsohn, Chief, Science/Engineering Library and co-curator.

“The task of the engineer is not to make a structure failure-proof, but to anticipate the ways in which it might fail,” Professor Mendelsohn added. “Having done so, he or she must then incorporate back-up systems into the design so as to minimize loss, destruction and injury.”

Among the CCNY faculty who, along with their students, provided technical descriptions are: Dr. Anil K. Agrawal, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering; Dr. Mumtaz K. Kassir, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, The Grove School; Alan Feigenberg, Professor of Architecture, SAUDLA, and Christian Volkmann, Adjunct Instructor, SAUDLA.

In addition to Professor Mendelsohn, the exhibit co-curators were Judy Connorton, Chief, Architecture Library, and Robert Laurich, Chief, User Services & Collection Development.

For more information about the “Why Structures Fail: Challenges to Engineering Design” exhibit, please call the Cohen Library at (212) 650-7271. 

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 14,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit