The fascination lies in the intellectual pleasure and witty fun involved in some of the technologies. He decodes the landscape, telling us why mobile (cell phone) phone masts have three sides; why railway lines are bedded on crushed stone rather than solid concrete; how to spot internet peering points, hidden within windowless block buildings. He also shows how technology can sometimes fail: the ruins of Teton dam in Idaho resemble a Pharaonic pyramid and of course there is Galloping Gerty, the Tacoma Narrows bridge that shook itself to piece in 1940.
Hayes’ examples are mostly from the USA but that’s no penalty – the USA’s industrial infrastructure is magnificent. Or rather it used to be. A sadness creeps is when, in the captions to his brilliant photographs (which he took), we read that these power stations, steelworks, petrochemicals plants have changed hands several times recently, passed on in grubby deals, to be sweated and run into the ground. Obama came to power on a ticket to renew America’s infrastructure: its crumbling bridges and highways. In Hayes book it still looks magnificent, but for how long?