CHAPTER 3Coordinates: Targeting the Blast

In the early twentieth century, the venerable and growing Sears, Roebuck and Company needed to expand its operations outside of Chicago, and chose northeast Philadelphia as one of its key locations. Between 1918 and 1920, more than 2,000 workers built the Sears Merchandising Center: a nine‐story, 2.7‐million‐square‐foot mammoth of a building. Many who grew up in the area considered the Center a key landmark of the city and a central part of their lives, with its 14‐story clock tower solidly marking the passage of time from decade to decade for the better part of that century.

On October 31, 1994, seven seconds and 12,000 pounds of explosive was all it took to bring the Philadelphia Sears Tower down. That event still holds the world record for the largest explosively demolished building.11

Our psyches typically relate explosions with a bad event: a bomb being dropped during wartime, a terrorist deploying a suicide vest, an accident at a plant. But detonations have also played a critical role in enabling progress. When it's impossible to sufficiently repair old infrastructure, we may need to blow up a bridge to make way for one that will be stable for longer. When history and memory are anchors to progress, we may need to tear down monuments to allow the collective to move forward. When the vision for a future is not simply derivative of the past, we may need to reduce a stadium to rubble to allow for a new, technologically advanced ...

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