A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
(Jean Baptiste) Amedee Couder wrote L'Architecture et l'industrie comme moyen de perfection sociale, a fine work that was published in Paris (by Brockhaus et Avenarius) in 1842. The work presents Couder's rather stroing visionary plans for a perfect city of industrial and scientific harmony, laid out in suggestively-fractal harmony, with the suggestions of a Renaissance-laden snowflake design. Whatever it was, it was beautiful to look at, at least on paper, though I'm not so certain that I'd care to live in the canyonlands of stone and shadow on the other side of the garden wall of the perfect scientific-industrial conclave.
(Its actually a fairly scarce book, with only two copies found in the WorldCat directory, so I've reproduced the book's larger folding plates)
The original volume may be purchased via the blog's bookstore, here.
Projet d'un palais des Arts et de l'industrie. 18x14 inches.
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding Post 1866 from 2012)
--article header from the Milwaukee Journal, 22 June 1941.
[I've written earlier on a related and very bad idea, Atomurbia, for atom-bomb-proofing American cities, here. The idea was to spread out the population and industry of the United States all over the country, so that there would be no centers of industry and no concentration of population, that every smallish city could be a target, thus making the many thousands of them un-bombable. This idea was the product of very influential people, and did not appear in a comic book.]
Reading Nicholson Baker's Human SmokeI found several unflattering and semi-unbelievable quotes from the unpretty Frank Lloyd Wright (see here). Present at a MoMA exhibition he was sharing with D.W. Griffith (detailed in the publication Two Great Americans published by the museum in 1940), Wright chose the background of the Battle of Britain, in which German bombs were falling on cities in Great Britain cities killing thousands, to promote his city design idea of Broadacre.
In development since 1932 (appearing in his book The Disappearing City) and kept on until his death in 1959, Wright's idea for city /suburban development spread a "city" to its limits, nearly stripping it of its citiness and expanding it towards the horizon in a wide and low wave of a complete suburbia. With this, Wright must have reasoned, Broadacre City must have seemed "bomb-proof" compared to the normal concept of the city, and decided to make the best of a horrible situation to promote his idea.
And with this, he was quoted in November 1940 in the New York Times, saying:
"I would not say that the bombing of Europe is not a blessing, because at least it will give the architects there a chance to start all over again"
Wright is quoted in the Milwaukee Journal talking about the blessing-in-disguise of the terror bombing and the benefits it would give to the future and to city planning, saying that a few nights of bombing would have cleared the "slums and ugliness" that otherwise would have taken "centuries" (""blasted out of the way in a few days").
I've never thought of Wright's buildings as structures for people, even the lovely Fallingwater is iconically beautiful outside but not-so-people-friendly inside--it may be a minority opinion, but so it goes. It is clear to me that for whatever record he was speaking to here in 1940 that he had no regard for the people who would have been in those destroyed areas; of course that was his executive orders, as all he was interested in was the idea of planning the city and responding to his own genius.
He went on, this reported in Time Magazine for November 25, 1940, describing his bombing-as-a-benefit idea:
"Broadacre is going to England as soon as there is a chance for it to be shown there. This will be immensely beneficial to England."
To say that this was an idea best left to the imagination rather than in the pages of the Paper of Record goes without saying.
And what of the architects whose buildings were lost during the Blitz? Say, like Christopher Wren?
"I don't think that anyone will miss Wren's work very much" (This, and the quote above, found in Baker, page 248.)
And also this:
‘After all,’ says he, ‘what is St. Paul’s? An imitation of St. Peter’s in Rome. I don’t think anyone will miss Wren’s work much." --Time Magazine, November 25, 1940
I've had a problem with Wright for a long time, but had never bumped into this part of his thinking before.
[Wright's wrongs on the Bombing of Britain are also recorded in Peter Shedd Reed (ed), The Show to End All Shows: Frank Lloyd Wright and The Museum of Modern Art, 1940 (MoMA 2004, here), and here, in the Milwaukee Journal for 22 June 1941, and also in the News Chronicle of London in"How I would Rebuild London"]
There have been several posts to this blog regarding unusual airport construction--covering part of the Thames, floating in the NYC bay, on top of numerous/differential rooftops, floating and/or moored in the ocean, on top giant airplanes, landing and launched from dirigibles, and so on (including a vertical airport where the aircraft are dropped in tubes). The example I have just found this morning is a mild twist on this topic, as it is a helipad--a futuristic one, judging from the Harley Earle/Buck Rogers-style design.
See, for example:
Floating and Airborne Airports: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2015/03/floating-and-airborne-airports.html
The content of this antique print was expected (on some level) though it was still surprising. "Domitian's Naumachina or Naval Amphitheatre" is from an unknown source though the basis of the image has been used and reused a number of time in the 18th century--I expect this one to be mid-18th or so. Domitian was not the happiest of Caesars, and from time to time engaged in enormous spectacles, which may or may not have included scenes like that below, flooding the amphitheater and launching ships for combat and amusement of the spectators. Or not--the issue is evidently a debated one among people who know this period; the image, however, is interesting.
The following--describing Domitian and his compounded public display interests is from -Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources. II. Rome and the West, edited byWilliam Stearns Davis (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913, pp. 194-195, Source: http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Domit.html
The original print is available for sale at the blog bookstore, here.
"Despite their control of the army and the subservience of the Senate, the average Emperor quailed before the hootings and ill will of the Roman mob. Thus Domitian (81-96 A.D.), a bad and tyrannical Caesar, tried to win popularity by providing the idle masses of the capital with their favorite games and arena massacres."
"He frequently entertained the people with the most magnificent and costly shows, not only in the amphitheater, but in the circus; where, besides the usual chariot races, with two or four horses abreast, he exhibited the imitation of a battle betwixt cavalry and infantry; and in the amphitheater a sea fight. The people too were entertained with wild-beast hunts, and gladiator fights even in the night-time, by torchlight. He constantly attended the games given by the quaestors, which had been disused for some time, but were revived by him; and upon those occasions, he always gave the people the liberty of demanding two pair of gladiators out of his own [private] "school," who appeared last in court uniforms."
"He presented the people with naval fights, performed by fleets almost as numerous as those usually employed in real engagements; making a vast lake near the Tiber, and building seats around it. And he witnessed these fights himself during a very heavy rain."
I have not made an entry to the Strange Things in the Sky department in a while, though I'm happy to have made my way to this one this morning. While many entries in this category truly are strange and actually in the sky, many are not--they are strange and unexpected, though appearing 'in" the sky by virtue of placement in an image, which is what we have here.
Giovanni Piranesi's collected works on the antiquities of the Roman empire are astonishing in form and function, and scope and breadth, and sometimes all of the above plus the placement of the represented objects on a piece of paper. In this case we have the plan of the sepulcher of the last Roman Emperor of the Severi dynasty, Alessandro Severo, who reigned at age 13 from 222-235 in a bitter part of 3rd century Roman history. The bumpy plan appears to float in the sky above unindexed ruined bits, while in the far background (lettered "F") is the building/construction itself, occupying perhaps only 5% of the image space.
And the next etched plate in Piranesi's book gives a fuller appreciation of the tomb:
[Source: http://www.wikiart.org/de/giovanni-battista-piranesi/the-roman-antiquities-t-2-plate-xxxi-fragment-of-stucco-gouged-by-the-time-of-nicchioni-is-one-1756#supersized-artistPaintings-262291 The Roman antiquities, volume 2, Plate XXXII. "Plan and external view of the tomb of Alexander Severus located outside Porta S. John about a mile from the aqueducts", 1756.]
Piranesi is filled with treasures of all shapes and descriptions, but what I find to be among the most sensational in the gigantic work are the arrangements of the found bits and the unexpectedly-placed objects.
This view of a future "skyscraper bridge" appeared in the May 1928 volume of Popular Mechanics (volume 48). It is an interesting idea , though very much on the high side, what with the structures being hundreds of feet high, towering over the shipping lanes. It is an old idea, the new bridge, and it reminds me of a lovely example in the Ponte Vecchio (literally, the "Old Bridge") of Florence, the recognizable image of it rebuilt in the 14th century. (It was probably designed by the great Taddeo Gaddi (remembered so well in narrative by Vasari and in portraiture by Paolo Uccello.) There was no Gaddi at work on this bridge, which was set to unite Chicago.
And the bird's-eye view of the enormous structure:
This gorgeous, near-dadist image belongs to Niccola Zabaglia, who published it in his book Castelli, e ponti di maestro Niccola Zabaglia con alcune ingegnose practice, e con la descriziojne del trasporto dell’obelsico Vaticano, e di altri del cav. Domenico Fontana, in Rome, in 1743. This is the literal and absolute height of pre-modern, pre-mechanized building construction in the soaring Roman Baroque, ordained by “maestro”, the master, Zabaglia (1664-1750), a spectacular (and necessary) proponent of practical mechanics as applied to the building trades. Among the “Castles” and churches and bridges alluded to in the title of his book, Zabaglia was responsible for affecting the maintenance and repair of St. Peter’s (more particularly to the basilica and the vault)—specifically, he had to figure out how to get the workmen and materials into place, and into very difficult and very high places, without damaging or destroying any of the existing decoration, artwork, sculpture, frescoes, and so on. This was no easy feat to perform back there in the dim, 265+ years-ago pre-electric pre-power past, with enormous technical and operational difficulties, and Zabaglia accomplished this was superior affect, devising complex and elegant moving and stationary scaffolds, hoisting and holding mechanisms for the ladders, and much else. He did just beautiful work, and he is a patron saint in the history of repair.
Ladders and scaffolds were important of course but were among the least of Zabaglia’s numerous accomplishments and inventions—they were so plentiful and useful that two Pope Benedicts ago (Pope Benedict the 14th) ordered their publication with actual teams of artists and engravers performing specific tasks.
This second image pertains to the tail-end of the Zabaglia title-page—the moving of the 500,000-pound Egyptian (carved during the reign of Nebkaure Amenemhet II, 1992-1985 BCE, and originally standing in the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis) obelisk in 1586 by Domenico Fontana, which was one of the greatest engineering feats of the Renaissance. Moving this enormous and relatively delicate object (from the Circus Nero, where it was placed by the emperor Caligula in 37 ACE, to St. Peter’s Piazza del Popolo, 50 years or so before it would be more enveloped by Bernini’s flying wings) took years of (very) careful planning and months of motion and movement, not to mention an extra month to get everything into place and slowly raise the obelisk into its final position. Fontana had to be cautious and correct, and he was, performing a not-so-minor miracle of pre-industrial magic to move the priceless 250-ton iconic relic and place it perfectly down in the center of Christianity. now that must have been one hot Roman summer, especially for Fontana.
This image comes from Domenico Fontana’s Della trasporatione dell’obelisco Vaticano…(published in Rome by Bassa in 1590), and shows some seven scale models for the armature of movement (in the foreground) of the great obelisk An even more famous and luscious image is the plan of the moving implements as seen here, below:
And again, another beautiful engraving showing the placement of the obelisk:
JF Ptak Science Books Expanding an earlier post from 2009...
I’m a sucker for cross sections, and this one has it all—nicely drawn, a glimpse into the possibilities of the future, and technoid removed from the realm of possibility.This article appears in Popular Science Monthly for June, 1934, and presents the possibility of extending downward into the earth for future city development. (as a matter of fact, the fabulous Modern Mechanix site has a similar story on display, asking the question “Are Skyscrapers Doomed?” for the same year, with the same engineers.) Well. It seems as though in this cross section that residences for people begin below the thirtieth floor, making living quarters starting at about 350’ down.The story goes that it would be possible to dig these cities up to about 6,000 feet into the earth, which of course is a long way down.Its difficult enough to drill an oil well hole to this depth; its difficult to imagine digging/outfitting/removing the earth from something—I’m not even sure what to call it—that was, potentially, thousands of feet deep and miles wide and long.That’s playing with figures hundreds of billions of cubic feet. Of construction. Underground. Well, I guess it wouldn't be necessarily underground--it could be an excavated hole that is a mile or two wide and across and down, which would make the hole itself several times larger than the largest whole ever dug by humans, which is the Bingham Canyon Mine, a pit slope mine that is about .5miles x 2.5 miles. And then construction would begin after which the remaineder would be covered by earth.
Anyway, it is a big hole and a lot of construction, the volume of it at the beginner phases of say a cubic mile would be equal to the volume of 25,000 Great Pyramids or 5,400 Empire State Buildings. It would be easier probably to build a vertical city in part of the Grand Canyon (or of course a "more modest canyon" and then cover it up--that's an idea you won't see in print too often. (I should poitn out that I've bumped into canyon-filling ideas every now eand then, one of my favorite truly-floated ideas being the one that would fill up Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, which snakes its way north-south in the central part of the city. Around 1890 the Federal government was trying to figure out how to best multi-task the area for parkland and roadway. One incredible plan called for the creek, which in many places is bounded by some pretty steep embankments (25-75 feet or so) and extends about 8 miles north of downtown, to be filled in, leveled off, and paved over. Now that would've been a lot of dirt. The final plan was perfectly fine and had a series of small roads snaking their way through the park, making it one of the nicest rides (Central Park-like) of any major metropolitan cities in North America.)
Before satellite imagery, before airplanes, before balloons, and before photography, the only way of obtaining large-scale and factual panoramic views was to get to a good observation point and draw away. Thomas Hornor (a surveyor and panoramist, 1785-1844) did just such a thing in 1821: taking advantage of the cross being removed for cleaning from the top of St. Paul's (London), he somehow convinced the powers-that-be to allow him to construct an observation post for himself in its place for a long term, uninterrupted and altogether fabulous view of the city of London. He set up shop up there, about 400 feet above the ground, and stayed, making minutely detailed drawings of the cityscape, working with a telescope and a great deal of reserve. And some amount of courage--we can see from this detail of his story published in The Mirrour in 1823 that his shack was, well, not the safest-looking shack that has ever been built atop a cathedral.
The end result was an enormous, fantastically detailed acre-sized painting which was installed and displayed in Decimus Burton's Colosseum. The installation was as much an artwork as the painting--it was affixed to the walls and people would view it from a multi-story observation deck in the middle of the building. For those who didn't want to climb the stairs to get to the viewing room, an "ascending car" was fabricated, making the structure one of the earliest buildings to have an elevator. There is some sort of irony in that: people would pay to see a painting using London's (perhaps)
first elevator to get to the top of a small structure inside another structure to see a painting made from the top of a large structure of a scene that could be viewed for free by walking outside. Nonetheless, the fantabulous painting was viewed by more than a million people before moving on.
I have a feeling that this may be an interesting category to develop (a "room with a View" that is), pursuing other rooms in other tall places. For example the last little triangular window is the hole in the sky for something at the Chrysler Building in NYC. I had heard that it was initially a bathroom that was built for the avuncular Mr. Chrysler, so that he could do his
business higher than anyone else in the world, which seems to have fitted his personality. After all, he did his fair share of this behavior, having dumped on people of all shapes and sizes, not the least of whom included thearchitect for his spectacular building, William Van Alen. He was stiffed by Chrysler because of mysterious and misbegotten ideas arising from old Walter's temperamental and stingy belly--that dear readers takes a lot of ____, not paying the architect who designed the world's tallest building and then to put his name on it.
I should mention that this little room in the Chrysler building pops up every now and then, perhaps most famously in Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird, where beautiful Kurt stuffs the head offices of the American Harp Company.
Check out Stephen Oetterman's The Panorama, a History of a Mass Medium (1997) and Bernard Comment's The Panorama (1995).
If New York City was populated by nothing but people wearing hats, carried mink muffs, used gold-handled walking sticks, and really didn't have to be anywhere at a particular time, then I think this invention might have been useful. But seeing that off the engineer's table that Manhattan was not god's waiting room and far more Darwinian than a high-Victorian imaginary noblese-chaste class of slow and deliberate people waiting to be waited on, then this idea wouldn't have worked very well at all. The seed of it all is found in Transportation of Passengers in Greater New York by Continuous Railway Train, or Moving Platforms. Argument in favor of equipping the East River Bridges, and connecting subway to Bowling Green, Manhattan, with a continuous railway train or Moving Platforms, which was prepared by Schmidt & Gallatin of New York in 1903. It was only 20 pages, but it had four folding plates, including two maps, and two drawings of the envisioned walkways, and that is the stuff upon which dreams are laid, made, and stayed.
"Moving Platforms for the conveyance of passengers were recommended by Mr. Horace Greeley thirty years ago. They were successfully operated, first, at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, where 2,700,000 people were transported. In 1896 they were installed at the Berlin Exposition, and again at the Paris Exposition of 1900, where they carried over eight million passengers. Few persons know what Moving Platforms are. From the face that sometimes they are called " Moving Side- walks," it is believed that they must be some sort of a pavement on rollers, on which it is difficult to step with safety and maintain equilibrium. The Moving Platforms are to all intents a railway, operated like other railways, propelled by electricity, with cars, seats, motors, passenger stations, ticket booths, guards, electric lights — in fact, everything belonging to a first-class railway."
"Where it differs from the ordinary railway is that the cars, or trains, are not running at intervals, but are coupled up continuously, so that there is no interruption of traffic at any time, but a large seating capacity at all times. It differs also in the construction of the cars, which are mere flat cars, provided with seats placed crosswise, and so ar- ranged that all rmssengers face in the direction of motion. Each of these seats may be made wide enough to accommodate one, two or more persons. The most approved plan is to provide seats on one side of the cars only and leave the other for passengers to walk, thus giving them an opportunity to further accelerate their speed if they so desire..."
The front page and very present image (running the full height of the magazine) of the Scientific American for the October 28, 1893 issue presents the Otis elevator on exhibit at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Otis was one of a dozen manufacturers showing their wares--it was also evidently the largest and most sensational display, with their demonstration (electric) elevator constructed in the center of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Hall and rising 185' from the ground. At the time the nation's tallest skyscraper was the New York World buildiing, recently finished in 1890 and 349' high. The tallest buildings of the previous decade weren't close to this, and weren't as tall as the Columbian Otis elevator, so the thrill of the folks who took the ride to the top of this great indoor structure must have been palpable.
And of course tall buildings wouldn't be anything without an elevator; and elevators would be nothing without a great, reliable, and safe (Westinghouse) braking system.
[An earlier post on this blog, Mapping the Invasion of America, 1942, addressed another vision of the invasion of the United States--it is also the most viewed post that I've written, having been read more than 400,000 times--Part II of this post may be seen here; and while you're at it consider a related post on the Nazi sub-orbital Amerika Bomber.]
Philip Diamond discovered an interesting concept in "blurryness" in the pursuit of building with a purpose. In his pamphlet Should it Happen Here, self-published (and printed by the Brighton Press of Brooklyn, U.S.A.) in 1937, Diamond established a need for creating (1) inexpensive housing for the unemployed and (2) poison-gas-proof housing for Americans in general, and came up with (1.5) inexpensive poison-gas-proof housing. In blurring the lines between the two needs I'm not sure that he satisfied anyone's needs, spreading his engineering/architectural gifts jut a little (or a lot) of bit too thin.
One thing Diamond was sure of was that the next war would be governed by "one man flying in an aircraft and releasing vapors of poisonous gas for destruction" and assured his readers that in this new war "there would be no front lines". "The future war will not be carried to the front line; it will be carried to the front door." That of course was true for hundreds of millions of people in Europe and the Soviet Union and South Asia, but not so in the same sense for anyone in America--unless those Americans happened to live on a remote chain of Alaskan islands. Diamond was sure that war was coming directly to the U.S., and although he doesn't name the country/countries that would be responsible for attacking America with poison gas, he did name one of the aircraft that would come here to do that--the HE112. (The HE 112 was a prototype fighter aircraft that wasn't adopted, with fewer than 100 produced. How this would get across Europe and then across the Atlantic and then across the U.S. I'm not sure.)
Once Diamond gets to the design of his house things get a little fuzzy--and heavy./ Very heavy. HE proposed a domed structure with a foot-thick "exterior roof" and a foot-thick "interior roof" of concrete, between which would be sandwiched three feet of sawdust. The sawdust was supposed to act as both a filter to noise and soot and dust from the outside world, as well as a filter for poisonous gases.
The 5-foot thick structure would be embedded on a 10-foot thick concrete bed (for earthquake protection) and surrounded on its sides by another 10-foot concrete structure of something that I can't figure out. Not surprisingly, the author announced with a section headings that there would be "No WIndows". There would be a double entry equipped with an "air condition" that would wash folks entering the house and decontaminate the gases that might've impregnated their clothing or bodies (though Diamond says nothing about outerwear).
Once inside (charmingly referred to as "the vault") the occupants would find two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, and two lavatories (one "miniature" for the children, not so much for "hygiene", but to "protect the delicate moal grace amongst the children". That was the best line in the pamphlet, and about the only thing that really made any sense.)
6 million of these houses could be constructed for the unemployed, costing $3,000/each, meaning that this part of the project could be funded with 18 billion dollars. This was at a time when the New Deal was having a heart attack, unemployment was spiking again, and the entire GDP of the U.S. was $91 billion, which means that Mr. Diamond was seeking a 20% cut of the GDP pie. In current terms, that 20% would mean $3 trillion.
So far as I can determine Mr. Diamond's plan was not taken seriously.
Also, this I think is my only encounter with a title pages that starts out with the words "Sub-title".
This book is available for purchase at our blog bookstore, here.
In my imaginary History of Lines there is a chapter or two for humans-in-line(s).In the history of the world, the fourth and fifth decades of the twentieth century—the 1930’s and ‘40’s—were big ones for human lines.Big does not imply good, because as we all know lots of humans lined up for all manner of unspeakable nastiness during this time and well more than 100 million didn’t make it out alive (considering all of the wars, purges, revolutions and stupidity).
The lines here are a little more benign, though with shriveled overtones of corrected respect.
Oppressive obedience in a well-designed environment is still like dressing your ear-infected 14-year-old St. Bernard/Jack Russell (?!) mixed breed in baby booties—its just not right, and these images attest to this simpy comparison. All of these photographs come from a delightful manufacturer’s catalog for linoleum products (Il Linoleim nelle Costruzioni Scolastiche), which was printed in Milano in 1935.(The original is available at our blog bookstore.)
I’ll undoubtedly write a post on this stylistic beauty later on, but suffice to say for right now that it really is a lovely thing.If only we could forget the Mussolini part.Now I’m no fan, necessarily, of linoleum, but if I had to live on a linoleum island far removed from civilization and I had to choose a design for my world, I would choose the designs from this catalog, without hesitation. They’re spare, well-proportioned, beautifully design utilitarian designs; they are also very shiny and cold with a dispirited order, but so it goes.The catalog seems to speak for its times, the inspired design bowing to the weighty needs of the flatulent state.
Even though the people (mainly child people) are in very structured environments, they still look as though they really don’t believe in whatever it was was happening--of course they were at school, or in an academic environment, or hospital, or something (as the titlf of the work states). There is something just wrong in the child-straight lines and seemless expanse of linoleum, something that looks as though details have been left out, that there is a ground-in sameness to everything, that the indifference to difference is so to make the children of a sort of sameness. Ihope that they did okay--most would be around 80 or 85 by now, if they survived.
When Nimrod set out to build his tower to the heavens (Genesis 10,11, amidst much begating and living to 207 years) he evidently did not consider the physical aspects of the structure and its impact upon its surroundings. The great and problematic Athanasius Kircher, the vastly learned and nimble and creative Jesuit scholar, did, and considered the tower of Babel in the last book printed during his lifetime, and found that there were certain problems associated with such a structure. (The semi-mystifying polymath Kircher (1602-1680) lived for a long time and filled his life with ideas and words, producing dozens of books during his time on Earth, some of which were never published even though written, some manuscripts lost forever. His was a massive output of extraordinary breadth, most of which was original to him, and a lot of which was original to others and not credited, as was often the case with some scholarship at this time in history. He wasted little time what I can see, writing on a spectacular range of subjects, enlightening people, confusing people, generating great theories and some bad ideas.)
[This magnificent engraving is very expandable]
Kircher considered the possibilities and necessaries of such a structure (in Turris Babel..., Amsterdam, 1679) and found in his investigations that the 178,000 miles-high building would be so massively heavy (3 million tons) that it would displace the Earth from its orbit:
"to reach the Moon, the tower would have to be 178,672 miles high, comprised of over three million tons of matter. The uneven distribution of the Earth's mass would tip the balance of the planet and move it from its position at the center of the universe, resulting in a cataclysmic disruption in the order of nature."--nicely described on the Museum of Jurassic Technology, here.
It was a nice piece of reasoning that didn't extend itself to very many other stories of the Bible--Kircher was not concerned with disproving scriptural elements, just the foolishness of Nimrod to attempt such a feat, and was mostly interested in language than anything else in his short last book.
The full title of the book: Turris Babel, Sive Archontologia Qua Primo Priscorum post diluvium hominum vita, mores rerumque gestarum magnitudo, Secundo Turris fabrica civitatumque exstructio, confusio linguarum, & inde gentium transmigrationis, cum principalium inde enatorum idiomatum historia, multiplici eruditione describuntur & explicantur. Amstelodami, Jansson-Waesberge 1679
The frontispiece (I believe, and not the title page) to the book shows the architect and supporters at work, with the Creator pretty-well present: (via University of Heidelberg Library, with the book available full-text, here):
Herbert Hoover--perhaps a better classical scholar than president--famously promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage". Well, in this example of thrift and austerity, we see a summer cottage offered for sale for $375.00 (disassembled plus freight), with room for a car, and even for a family. A small family.