Villa Riviera, Long Beach

In the background of the photo above are two buildings. The Gothic building with the green copper roof is the Villa Riviera, which was built in 1929. This building was designed by Richard D. King who spent more than $2 million dollars on its construction — most of which went towards reinforcing the building against earthquakes.

This is an astonishing amount of money for the time and King was criticized for spending so much at the start of the Great Depression.

However, on March 10, 1933, the owners of the Villa Riviera realized the benefit of the cost because the hotel was one of the only buildings to survive the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake with little to no damage. Another nearby building of similar size (made out of brick), crumpled to the ground (according to our tour guide).

After March 10, 1933, engineers were able to study the effects of earthquakes on building materials. Concrete buildings with reinforced structures (like the Villa Riviera) sustained little damage; whereas other materials collapsed (230 brick and mortar school buildings were destroyed).

This marks a turning point in California architectural history because these findings prompted the California government to change building codes and mandate the use of earthquake resistant materials in construction.

“Relatively speaking, however, seismologists do not consider the 1933 event along the Newport-Inglewood fault zone to have been a very large earthquake. Much of what occurred in 1933 would not happen today due to improved construction practices. Most of these practices owe their existence to disasters like the Long Beach earthquake, which, though tragic, have provided building designers with invaluable information on the performance of different building materials and designs when subjected to shaking. This information, when put into practice, can help avert tragedy when the next earthquake inevitably strikes.” —

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