002 / Pancake Buildings
Humanity’s continued arrogance against nature.
On the 17th of August, 1999, the city of Izmit, in Türkiye, was hit by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake. It killed 17,000 people (although some estimates peg this at an even higher number) and 100,000 homes were left damaged beyond repair. For over two decades it was considered the most deadly disaster in Türkiye’s modern history. The 1999 earthquake was a catalyst to introduce more stringent building code regulations around seismic activities. A thin (and ultimately) ineffective attempt to reduce the country’s exposure to avoid a similar (or greater) disaster.
Humanity’s arrogance never ceases to astound. On the 6th of February, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the south of the country. It is the 5th most devastating earthquake on record, both in magnitude and casualties. The human toll is an unmitigated tragedy, with 40,000 dead and rising. The scale of what is happening in Türkiye is avoidable. Those buildings did not all need to crumble as they did. While some damage is unavoidable, many of the buildings should have remained standing.
At a fundamental level the built environment is meant to provide us with protection. Protection from the elements. Protection from the Earth itself. If designed and built correctly, the built environment is not meant to be an elaborate trap, as levels pancake into themselves. That is why we have building codes. Building codes are only as good as their enforcement and the desire to implement them. We have the knowledge and understanding to make buildings resilient to seismic activity.
Mother nature does not distinguish between countries, when it strikes, the destruction is indiscriminate. People do not need to loose their homes. More importantly, people do not need to loose their lives.
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