“Designing for Disaster” at the National Building Museum

Fujita portrait

The Southwest Collection is proud to have loaned items from its collected papers of world-renowned meteorological researcher Dr. Tetsuya Theodore “Ted” Fujita to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The Museum is presenting a multimedia exhibition titled Designing for Disaster, a call-to-action for citizen preparedness—from design professionals and local decision-makers to homeowners and school kids—investigating how and where to build communities that are safer and more disaster-resilient. The exhibition opened on May 11, 2014 and will remain on view through August 2, 2015.

US Tornado Map 1930-74-21x16

From earthquakes and hurricanes to rising sea levels and flooding, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. Recent history shows that no region of the country is immune from the rising costs of storm and disaster damage. Visitors to Designing for Disaster will explore new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards. Research materials such as Fujita’s documentation of several decades of tornadoes will not be the only items on display. Artifacts from past disasters, such as a door battered by Hurricane Katrina, will express the destructive, persistent, life-altering power of nature.
Fscale classification of 1971 tornadoes (2)
A cornerstone of the exhibit is a true-to-life, FEMA-specified “safe room”—one of the few defenses against a tornado or violent storm—in which exposed layers illustrate how it was built to withstand tornado-force winds and flying debris. Such destruction was the primary research focus of Dr. Fujita, whose conclusions would lead to the creation of the F-Scale (‘F’ standing, of course, for Fujita) which is now the worldwide standard for measuring the destructive power of tornadoes.

Lubbock tornadoes
Driven by ways to reduce risk before the next disaster, case studies will explore a range of flexible design and planning schemes, public policies, and new forecasting technologies. Drawing on data gathered from past disasters, such as the Lubbock, Texas F-5 tornadoes of May 1970 that damaged over a quarter of the town, the studies are varied as the solutions. They range from engineering advancements and seismic retrofits of esteemed historic buildings (such as the University of California at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium) and bridges (the Eastern Span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge), to urgent, hands-on lessons, through models, animated drawings and interactive displays that demonstrate how to strengthen homes, hospitals, schools, and other structures.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. For any public inquiries, call them at (202) 272-2448, visit www.nbm.org, or connect with them on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

– by The National Building Museum

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