Bracing for Disaster: Earthquake-Resistant Architecture and Engineering in San Francisco, 1838-1933

Stephen Tobriner
In 1906, San Francisco was destroyed not by the terrible earthquake of April 18, but by the fires that ensued. Yet journalists and historians then--and now--—have been quick to point out the speed and supposed sloppiness with which architects and engineers rebuild San Francisco after every major earthquake. The conventional wisdom holds that corruption prevented proper seismic safety in new buildings. But those presumptions are far too sweeping, according to architecture and earthquake scholar Stephen Tobriner. In fact, for the past one hundred and fifty years, architects and engineers have quietly been learning from each quake and designing newer models of earthquake-resistant building techniques and applying them in an ongoing effort to save San Francisco. Bracing for Disaster is the first history of seismic engineering in San Francisco. In the language of a skilled teacher, Tobriner examines what really happened in the city'’s earthquakes--which buildings were damaged, which survived, and who were the unsung heroes--—in a fresh appraisal of a city responding to repeated devastation. Filled with more than two hundred photographs, diagrams, and illustrations, Bracing for Disaster is a revealing look at the history of buildings by a true expert, and it offers lessons not just for San Francisco but for any city beset by natural disasters.

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