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by Trevor Turpin

As well as much-needed electricity, dams generate extremes of emotion. Traditionally, dams have facilitated hydraulic civilizations such as those in the Nile Valley, China and Mesopotamia, and, in the twentieth century, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Yet with the proliferation of dams – there are now more than 40,000 large dams worldwide – opposition and support can be measured in equal proportion. Their outstanding design and construction, often in inhospitable conditions, is representative of the skills of their engineers, yet others do not see such beauty in the ‘taming’ of rivers. In 1998 the continuing controversy led to the forming of the World Commission on Dams to seek a meeting of minds.

Dam, a new addition to Reaktion’s Objekt series, traces the development of dams from the Industrial Revolution to the present day through a number of themes – both successes and failures – including the extension of the design teams forming an alliance between engineering, architecture, landscape architecture and ecology.

A profusely illustrated exploration of a previously neglected subject, this book is neither a polemic against dams nor a defence of their proliferation. It offers a fresh and much-needed account of their design, construction and function, which will appeal to dam engineers, environmentalists, historians and students, as well as those who previously recognized only The Dambuster’s March.


‘Here, dams take centre stage as their design, construction, beauty, failures and environmental consequences are analysed.’
Building Design

The one word title of this book belies the rich detail of its content. The author takes you through tales and descriptions of human endeavour, social history, geography, engineering and all other aspects of dams and water supply. The many photographs, posters and quotations enhance the text and take the reader along on a great journey round the world. A great deal of technical information is presented in a very readable style. I found this a most fascinating book, and would commend it.


‘Dam investigates some of the world’s most famous and awe-inspiring dams and will be of interest to engineers, historians and environmentalists at all levels . . . beautifully illustrated’
The Environmentalist

‘Turpin’s book will be of particular interest to engineers, environmentalists and historians and, because it is well written and well illustrated, also to the broader reading public. I thoroughly recommend it.’
Dams and Reservoirs

‘With the current movement toward dam removals in the Western world, it is interesting to see a book that treats dams as buildings of particular significance. This book’s approach is not technical, but historical. It presents dams under different perspectives: as symbols of dominance, works of designers, and objects of beauty. It also covers dam failures and the recent backlash against dams . . . Recommended.’