November 2, 2016 Graduate Architecture Students Visit San Andreas Fault to Study Effects of Natural Disasters

Graduate students in the School of Architecture, led by Architecture Fellow Darius Ammon, visited California in October to study the effects of natural disasters on urban architecture. From the Carrizo Plain to Salt Point State Park, the students followed the San Andreas Fault to study the ways in which architecture interacts with a dynamic geological landscape.

“This experience challenged students to consider the impact of such extreme topographic conditions on architecture—to engage imaginatively with topography and, more specifically, geological phenomena,” said Ammon.

Before embarking on the two-day road trip, students attended a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, to learn about the geology of the San Andreas Fault, where the North American plate meets the Pacific plate, grinding, shifting and constantly reshaping California’s landscape.

A geologist from UC Berkeley then guided the students on a journey through Salt Point State Park and the Carrizo Plain, both split by the San Andreas Fault.

Dustin Toothman, a second-year graduate Architecture student, said, “I learned a lot about not only how California’s landscape was formed but also how my own home state, West Virginia, was formed. This helps me be more informed about landscape and how I can use it throughout my design career.”


Through their travels and their guide, students learned how the relationship between the surface of the earth and its geological structures influences architectural design, an understanding that will enable them to incorporate and accommodate the earth’s most complex characteristics in their own designs.