“Demolish” is one of those delicious, sleek words. But what’s more satisfying than watching a building before you get gloriously demolished by nifty machines? One must ask at some point: Where did all these cool designs come about? To find out some of the key pieces of history behind modern demolition, keep scrolling!
One of the most iconic symbols of demolition, the wrecking ball is often what makes demolitions such spectacles. Despite its name, the wrecking ball is not always spherical; it often comes in the shape of a pear—a pear with its top cut off to be more exact. The predecessor to the wrecking ball was the sledgehammer of the 1930s that wrecked fixtures and windowpanes. The 1950s and 60s finally saw the golden age of wrecking balls. However, due to the discovery of the toxicity of asbestos (released from the rough wrecking), people increasingly preferred other means of demolition—such as excavating machines—to wrecking balls.
Sir W. G. Armstrong & Company is credited for being the first to apply hydraulic technology to excavation in 1882. The result? They helped build the Hull docks of England. An unrelated, American Armstrong by the name of Frank H. Armstrong—a mechanical engineer at the Penn Iron Mining Company—built the second machine in 1914. Fast forward some centuries and we have the modern hydraulic excavator that was largely a development from the 1940s. Whereas wrecking balls have the disadvantage of being difficult to control, hydraulic excavators can move much more surgically. Rather than have to generate a pendulum swing to maximize impact, the hydraulic excavator can deliver a punch right away.
Why go through the trouble of smashing and pummeling when the destruction could be achieved from within? Building implosion—misnamed because a building is not imploding but simply weakened in its structural integrity—is a way of bringing an edifice down via the use of explosives. This method is effective for skyscrapers (unless they are exceptional mega-giants like the Burj Khalifa) and simultaneous, multiple demolitions. As of 2018, the tallest structure to be safely demolished was the Singer building in New York; one can wonder which demolition would be the grandest for 2019.
The various claws and cranes specialized for demolition are many. Thoroughly researching all the historical scoops on demolition can give us a snapshot of the past as well as grow our appreciation for and knowledge about what we have today; but being able to demolish LEGO castles with that history book doesn’t mean you’re an expert. Contact Legacy Concrete Works to get ‘er done!