Earthquake Architecture

Design proposal that expresses earthquake damage and subsequent repair to a building form
- Luke Allen, Victoria University of Wellington

About Us

This website is provided for those interested in architectural aspects of seismic design as viewed from the standpoint of:

    architectural and structural engineering educators and students
    practicing architects and engineers
    architectural historians
    earthquake engineering researchers
    the general public

This Earthquake Architecture* website responds to a suggestion from an informal luncheon meeting on August 3, 2004 of interested individuals at the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Vancouver, Canada. Several interesting topics in this general area were discussed by those present, and ideas contributed by some who were unable to attend were also added into the conversation. Establishing a web forum to further the discussion and sharing of information was agreed up as an appropriate next step.

Andrew Charleson

Bob Reitherman

The co-convenors of the informal 13WCEE lunch meeting were: Andrew Charleson, Senior Lecturer, Building Structures, School of Architecture at the Victoria University of Wellington, and also Director of the Earthquake Hazard Centre there (; and Bob Reitherman, Executive Director of Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering ( They agreed to continue to facilitate the bringing together of interested individuals over the coming months. Whether a more formalized organizational effort (perhaps a steering committee?) materializes, or whether a focused drive to accomplish a specific goal (organize an exhibit and theme session at a major conference?) proceeds, will depend on the support of interested individuals.

Please contribute your contact information via the Directory of Interested Individuals page if you wish to stay informed and be involved in future activities.

This website is hosted by CUREE, Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (, and conforms to CUREE’s Website Integrity Policy. CUREE is a non-profit organization dedicated to earthquake engineering research, education, and implementation.

For information about this site, contact the CUREE Webmaster at:

* “Earthquake architecture” is a term often used in the teaching and writing of Andrew Charleson. See for example the 13WCEE paper he co-authored with M. Taylor and J. Preston, “Envisioning Earthquake Architecture in New Zealand,” which states that the “wide breadth of expressive possibilities ranges from metaphorical exploration of seismic issues, to the more straightforward exposure of seismic technology.”

The term was used by Christopher Arnold in his 1996 11WCEE paper on “Architectural Aspects of Seismic Resistant Design,” in which he explored the visual expression of seismic design principles. Robert Reitherman, in his 1985 paper, “Earthquake Engineering and Earthquake Architecture,” which was part of the American Institute of Architects workshop on Designing for Earthquakes in the Western Moutain States: A Workshop for Architects and Related Building Professionals,” noted that while “earthquake engineering” was a common term for organizations and conferences, “earthquake architecture” had an unaccustomed ring to it, and asked “Is there such a thing as earthquake architecture, and if so, what is it?”

As used here, the broad expanse of the intersection of architecture with earthquakes is considered to be within the scope of the term. This includes cases where a design, for example a bridge, combines seismic efficiency with beauty, even in the absence of an architect’s input, i.e., the “structural art” described in the writing of David Billington (e.g., The Tower and The Bridge). In addition to visual aspects of earthquake engineering, a professional architect’s role extends to the design of nonstructural architectural components such as partitions, ceilings, and curtain walls or cladding.

Earthquake architecture can also be extended to include architectural histories studying how cities have been affected by earthquakes and have rebuilt, such as in the work of Stephen Tobriner (e.g., The Genesis of Noto: An Eighteeenth Century Sicilian City). Architect and architecture professor Mary Comerio has applied an architect’s concern with the usage of buildings, in particular residential buildings, to the earthquake subject (e.g., Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery).

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 04.09.08