Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In Underground, by David Macaulay, the puzzle of what lies beneath cities is unraveled in clear pen-and-ink sketches that stand out against the brown earth and white background. In the text, each aspect of the underground and its construction is explored in concise, direct statements that explain various parts of the world beneath city streets.

Accurate, step-by-step explanations help readers understand the unseen structures and systems. The network of walls, columns, cables, pipes, and tunnels serves many purposes: Walls and columns support buildings, bridges, and towers, while cables, pipes, and tunnels carry water, electricity, and gas. Larger tunnels transport people on subways. Macaulay examines the maze beneath the streets by exposing a typical section of the network. He has invented a site at the intersection of two streets that serves as a prototype of any underground in an urban setting and portrays various kinds of foundation construction that support both large and smaller buildings.

The foundations considered depend on the composition of the earth’s surface, which may include sand, clay, rock, water, and, at the very bottom, bedrock. Horizontal and vertical diagrams indicate the site plan and soil profile. Various methods are used to determine the exact composition of the site: for example, digging a hole, using a sounding rod, or employing a variety of methods to analyze samples of soil. Bedrock, although the best material, may be too far beneath...

(The entire section is 611 words.)