CA’REDIVIVUS: Research topic


The planner of today cannot go out from a „tabula rasa“ situation any more. Environmental and sustainability issues have already formed the public idea that a „green belt“ of our cities is necessary, a kind of fortification leading to intensive development of towns inside a clearly delimitated area within the surrounding nature. Since building on the periphery is limited, and the existing built substance has a certain cultural, architectural or at least environmental value, upgrading of existing buildings gains more and more ground from the design of new buildings. While in the majority of cases this upgrading means bringing the buildings to the comfort required by changed living standards, earthquake prone countries face a particular challenge given by the necessity to bring them also to an corresponding safety standard.

Reinforced concrete and unreinforced masonry constructions are the ones most damaged in earthquakes across Europe and hence the development and application of retrofit methods for this kind of structures is most stringent. Masonry has been already recognised as construction material par excellence for historic structures. Recognised specialists worldwide are carrying out research on both the performance of common and monumental buildings with masonry structure [D. D'Ayala, G. Croci, S. Lagomarsiono/RISK-UE, G. Magenes, C. Oliveira, R. Sofronie, M. Tomazevic, etc.]. Reinforced concrete is not. The reason for this may lay in the fact that concrete has not been employed for long, thus buildings with concrete structure are generally regarded as „not old enough“ to be considered historical.

To contradict this presumption one shall only think of the blocks of flats in Chicago, where the possibilities of concrete were used to build in the height before of those given by steel. Concrete is a construction material widely employed in the earthquake prone areas of south-east Europe. For new buildings it was the material for which design and technique were taught most extensively, if not the only one, in Romania. Greek literature on concrete technology is also highest quality [Penelis&Kappos, 1997]. But its use began shortly after the discovery of the new possibilities given by a new material.

Before being employed „en mass“ in earthquake prone areas of Europe concrete reached France. The „Immeuble de logements Rue Franklin“, by architect Auguste Perret, designed 1903 and built 1903-1904 is the most exemplificative forerunner of what derived into the so-called inter-bellum style in Romania. Further „immeubles“ in Paris from turn-of-the-century show similar characteristics to the Romanian regarding the urbanistic and functional structure. And not only. Also while employing it was usual to perform computations according to rules which came from France (as documented by Prager, 1979), or from Germany. The German circular from 1925 was most employed, although it regarded design for gravitational loads only. In Germany right now the vulnerability of Romanian inter-bellum buildings is being researched, from a point of view which combines approaches from geosciences and from engineering (SFB 461). The architectural aspects and the hereto related portability are not.

The „immeubles du beton“ in turn-of-century Paris or in interwar time in Romania are representants of the same architectural current: the Avantgarde, also called „the modern movement“. And avant-garde buildings are of historical value. The association DOCOMOMO aims the „DOcumentation and Conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the MOdern MOvement“. However, again, so few of them have concrete as structure building material. Or at least so few of them are documented. Recent research of the applicant has shown little success in looking for such buildings in Slovenia, an earthquake prone country, which gave architects of international size to the times of the Modern Movement. Especially regarding multiple housing units. And in Germany there are no innovative „pure iron-concrete frame“ buildings of the Modern Movement known to the applicant.

The highly interdisciplinary nature of the problem stated needs a decision model based on which the actors involved in the implementation of a retrofit measure can interact. Multiattributive decision models (Strassert, 1995; ATC-40) build a basis for this.

Research on possible implementation programmes in the existing policy environment have been carried out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the USA (FEMA 173-174), but continued interest of the applicant on “Natural Hazards Impact on Urban Areas and Infrastructure” leaded to collecting recent research contributions through the scientific organisation of meetings. Also, the applicant has contributed to progress in research on housing in earthquake prone countries, as it will be shown.

Providing safe and affordable housing is one of the duties we have towards future generation. Conservation of the cultural heritage of the architecture of the Modern Movement is another one. And the reinforced concrete multiple housing units have not been researched enough.