In 1989 we in the Bay Area got shook up a bit by one of the roughest earthquakes I had ever experienced. The Marina District of San Francisco was especially hard hit, as the apartment building above illustrates. It used to be three floors but the bottom floor just collapsed under the other two.
The foundation of the Marina is mostly landfill and sand, making it vulnerable to a phenomenon known as “liquefaction”. As the quake shakes the sand, it takes on the properties of a liquid, and no one would build their house on liquid would they?
This picture was taken the day after the quake and I was still able to roam around before the authorities had effectively cordoned it off, keeping curious photographers like me on the outside. There were dozens of buildings like this one and it was then that I realized I had been very fortunate to have escaped with minor damages in my own home.
I don’t know if there is a building technique that would make a structure immune to damage on fill like that of the Marina but I sort of doubt it. It’s valuable property though and there are still plenty of people willing to risk it.
(Don’t miss the video below!)