The wrecking ball may be a universal symbol for demolition, but it's no longer the go-to method for tearing down buildings. As writer Eric Grundhauser explains for Atlas Obscura, reclaiming building materials, largely by hand, was common practice through the mid-20th century, when the use of a forged steel ball and inertia rose to prominence as "a quick, cheap, and dirty method of tearing down a building." In postwar America, demolition via wrecking ball was a visceral sign of optimism, of tearing down the old in order to rebuild anew. So why not blast the past away with a big metal ball? It was more than a desire to save building materials for reuse that brought the slower, more labor-intensive deconstruction back into vogue. The development of new equipment, like hydraulic excavators for precise take-downs countered by explosive demolition and implosion, also contributed. And, of course, the increasingly popular reclaimed industrial aesthetic in residential and commercial interiors—think Starbucks and Whole Foods—is contributing to the industry's slow swing back to deconstruction.

Read the full story at Atlas Obscura.

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