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

Are we prepared for the big one?

For the past one hundred and fifty years, architects and engineers have quietly been learning from each quake and designing newer 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.

Published in collaboration with the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

A Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title


"The first history of seismic engineering in San Francisco...Over two hundred photos and diagrams compliment an expert's survey of events, which comes spiced with survivor and eyewitness accounts."

Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Stephen TobrinerStephen Tobriner is a professor of architectural history at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written extensively on architecture and the history of reconstruction after earthquakes, and has investigated damage in earthquakes around the world with teams sponsored by the United Nations, the National Science Foundation, the Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.