Photo: Anna Flavin, GCI

Los Angeles, home to the Getty Conservation Institute, is very familiar with the destructive power of earthquakes. In the last fifty years, two major quakes, in 1971 and 1994, resulted in loss of life and extensive damage in the city. The Getty Center, which houses the GCI and its sister programs, was under construction in 1994; the 6.7 magnitude quake that year revealed vulnerability in steel joints already erected at the site, and retrofitting was undertaken to reduce the susceptibility of the center to future seismic damage.

Several years before that event, the GCI had actually embarked on a program of seismic retrofitting research, with a focus on built cultural heritage. In 1990 the GCI initiated two projects to research and develop methods to provide seismic stabilization for historically and culturally significant buildings in earthquake regions. The first, the Getty Seismic Adobe Project (GSAP), investigated alternatives to existing retrofitting methods for earthen structures and developed ways to provide seismic protection at a reasonable cost while substantially preserving the authenticity of historic adobes. The second, undertaken in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, focused on seismic retrofitting of Byzantine churches constructed of stone and brick.

The feature article in this edition of Conservation Perspectives describes the Institute's current Seismic Retrofitting Project (SRP), which grew out of GSAP. The SRP builds on the GCI's expertise and years of research in developing methodologies and standards for the seismic retrofitting of earthen architectural heritage. Its present work in Peru, undertaken with the support of the GCI Council and the assistance of Friends of Heritage Preservation, is the subject of the article by Daniel Torrealva, former dean of the science and engineering school of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and Claudia Cancino, the GCI senior project specialist who is managing the SRP. The project, carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Peru and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, is developing low-tech, cost-effective seismic retrofitting techniques and making recommendations on easy-to-implement maintenance programs that together can improve the seismic performance of earthen buildings while preserving historic fabric.

In their article, conservation architects Stephen Kelley and Rohit Jigyasu use the 1987 landmark Getty publication Between Two Earthquakes: Cultural Property in Seismic Zones by Sir Bernard Feilden as a starting point to examine progress made in succeeding decades, as well as areas where more work needs to be done. Professor Zeynep Gül Ünal, a member of the risk preparedness committee of ICOMOS and of Turkey's GEA Urban Search and Rescue Team, examines policy and legislative changes that can better safeguard historic structures from seismic damage. And in his article, civil engineer and professor Paulo B. Lourenço explores advances in research related to reducing the vulnerability of historic buildings to seismic activity. Finally, this edition's roundtable includes Androniki Miltiadou-Fezans, Claudio Modena, and John Ochsendorf, all engineers with notable experience in the area of built cultural heritage; together they grapple with questions related to the roles, responsibilities, and training of engineers involved in built heritage conservation. In sum, this GCI newsletter delineates some of the advances in reducing the risk posed to built heritage by seismic activity—while also charting some of the directions in which we need to go.

Timothy P. Whalen