If you live or work in one of LA’s many older concrete buildings and happened to read the Los Angeles Times recent story, “Concrete Risks,” your building, as swanky and detailed as it may be, may never be experienced in quite the same light. The report sounds the alarm on over 1,000 concrete buildings in the city and throughout the region that “may be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake.”
Architectural photographer, Adrian Wilson, shared this photo with AN that he snapped during a photo shoot in Mexico City today. The routine work day, this time at Casa Palacio for Jeffrey Hutchison & Associates, was abruptly interrupted by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake epicentered some 250 miles outside the Mexican capital. It was once instance, the usually-steady Wilson said, when he “couldn’t avoid camera shake…” According to news reports there was no major damage or injuries reported from the tremor.
A big one hasn’t hit California for a little while, which means it’s the perfect time to enact more stringent retrofit legislation. Just in case, you know… Near the end of last month San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed into law the city’s new mandatory soft-story retrofit program, which calls for retrofits to buildings with large openings for storefronts or garages. There are quite a few in the city: 2,800, home to about 58,000 people and 2,000 businesses, according to the Mayor’s office.
California’s tallest residential-only tower and, according to some, the ugliest building in San Francisco has been given a new purpose following the installation last month of 72 accelerographs, or strong motion seismographs, within the building. Through a collaboration between the California Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Madnusson Klemencic Associates, the building’s structural engineers, the 641-foot southern tower of the One Rincon Hill luxury condominium development at the base of the Bay Bridge is now home to the “densest network of seismic monitoring instruments ever installed in an American high-rise,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. These instruments, located at strategic points throughout 24 floors of the building, will provide “unprecedented” seismic data, which will in turn lead to better building codes and guidelines for structural engineers and future high-rise builders.
Water Names. Is it a creek, a stream, or a cañada? Looking for patterns behind different names for American waterways, graphic designer Derek Watkins created an infographic that plots more terms for water than we’ve heard of revealing the cultural geography of language. More at Co.Design.
Pop-Up Religion. In February, an earthquake destroyed Christchurch, New Zealand and now Shigero Ban has been invited to design a temporary church for the city. His design takes cues from his popular Paper Dome Church that once stood in Kobe, Japan, incorporating recyclable materials such as “cardboard tube buttresses” and shipping crates in the foundation. Gizmodo has details.
Architecture + fashion. Fashion Week in New York is quickly approaching, and we’re excited about the second annual Building Fashion event, taking place this year in our headquarter neighborhood of TriBeCA. Five architecture teams are collaborating with fashion designers to create original temporary installations for couture design.
Mapping Disasters. In and around New York City, we were fortunate Tropical Storm Irene created little more than flooding, fallen trees, and electric outages, and that last week’s tremors left no damage in the city. If these rare northeast natural disasters are getting you down, perhaps it’s time to consider moving to the safest place in the U.S. to avoid natural disasters? A NY Times infographic hasfound just the place: Corvallis, OR. Cities in Oregon and Washington state top the list, while areas in Texas and Arkansas have the highest risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and tornadoes.
Standing up to Earthquakes. Many of the east coast’s 19th century masonry buildings are not built to withstand a strong earthquake. How do those California skyscrapers withstand the west coast’s dangerous, powerful tremors? Gizmodo featured an array of earthquake-tech such as tuned mass dampers and roller bearings allow tall buildings to move with the earthquake and absorb shock.
Melancholy Utopia. The end of summer and beginning of fall will bring a flood of design events in European cities. Among them, more than forty designers will descend on Rotterdam on September 3rd to showcase their work throughout the city. The theme is Melanchotopia, an examination of the connections between melancholy and utopia, mourning and hope, said e-flux.
Would you stay in a 15-story structure built in six days? Through the magic of prefabrication, one new hotel in Changsha, China was built erector-set-style at just such a fantastic pace and recorded through time-lapse photography. The better term might be constructed in six days, however, as the building’s foundation and the factory-made pieces were already finished at the beginning of this architectural ballet, but the feat proves rather amazing nonetheless.
While you might have never heard of Changsha, China, home to the new Ark Hotel, the country’s 19th largest city mirrors the building’s rapid growth. Changsha tripled in size between the 1940s and 1980s and today contains an estimated population of 6.6 million.
While such a quickly constructed building might seem prone to shoddy construction, the Ark Hotel is reportedly built to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake, meaning a quake over 1,000 times more powerful than January’s quake in Haiti. Call us skeptical, but we’d opt to be out of the building when disaster strikes.
Since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a lot of attention has been focused on the preparedness of the United States to absorb such massive tremors. Nowhere is this more true than in California, the state that is perhaps the most poised in the country to deal with such disasters, as well as the most prone to suffer them. A recent report last week from California Watch—a consortium of investigative journalists who relish tackling the tough issues—found that the state’s public universities have been particularly remiss in earthquake-proofing their facilities. The report identified 108 buildings owned by state universities that engineers say would suffer serious structural damage in the event of a major quake. UC Berkeley topped this list with 71 occupied buildings that failed to make the grade. California is expected to feel one or more magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquakes in the next 30 years.
Icarus. The Tower of Babel. We all know what can happen when humans reach too high. Well, apparently reaching too low can also have some negative side effects. In mid-August, a geothermal power plant under construction in Germany set off a trembler that registered at 2.7 on the Richter scale. A similar project in Basel, Switzerland, set off successive earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, one registering as high as 3.4. While some seismic activity has always resulted from geothermal installations, a new process which digs deeper and involves fracturing solid rock, rather than harvesting existing steam beds, both promises to increase power production and, evidently, earthquakes. The news is disheartening, considering that a report from the Department of Energy that came out earlier this year cast geothermal energy as real possibility for significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in a relatively short time frame.