Maria Bostenaru Dan, Housing in Bucharest, Romania. An Analysis of Vulnerability to Earthquakes. Göttingen: Cuvillier Verlag, 2010.
Review by Mirela Adriana Anghelache

The “World Housing Encyclopedia” (, a project of EERI and IAEE, was launched at the World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in 2000 in Auckland, New Zealand. It was a project in frame of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The Encyclopedia is available online and is open to anyone who is going to use the information, while information on construction types can be contributed by professionals and is peer-reviewed. A summary publication with the reports to date was done in 2004 and also several tutorials on construction types by material are available as hard copy.
This book makes a geographical-wise completion: it is a collection on the reports from Bucharest, Romania. The book was published by Cuvillier Verlag, Göttingen, Germany, in 2010, where it is still available and also available over Amazon Germany ( It costs 58,80 euro.

It is a thick book of 454 pages, in A5 format, richly illustrated with photos and drawings, some of them in color. Being a text book it doesn’t use photographic paper. In a geographic distribution related approach, in the book introduction there are provided maps showing the representative building types, chosen chronologically as they were constituted and which can be found in particular areas of Bucharest. There is a total of 10
reports from 7 architectural time periods. For Bucharest there is no city-wide survey of the building stock and the census does not account for detailed typologies, but merely for materials of the structure and age and height of the buildings. Thus, all relevant types could be identified following a historical, and not a geographical approach. It is a so-called typological survey. The relevance of the typology has been tried out in the German project SFB 46, as it is shown in the introduction by means of some maps of a protected zone in the city centre and of the questionnaire for mapping the built stock. Such approaches are valuable in the context in which the “World Housing Encyclopedia” is now leading partner in the Global Earthquake Model Taxonomy and Ontology project. It allows to see in how far the taxonomies set by the Encyclopedia can be applied in local context to characterize the whole built stock. Actually, the author signed in several publications, for example Bostenaru (2004), that the
World Housing Encyclopedia has the potential of becoming from an information system an expert system through the included assessment criteria and gave decision weights (Bostenaru and Pinho, 2006) to the questions in the Encyclopedia which were assigned to the actors:
“architect”, engineer”, “investor” and “inhabitant”. The taxonomy proposed in the questionnaire is exemplified in some tables with the whole range of historic building types and also with the relevant building elements in the survey. Other maps that were included in the introduction are related to a common zone in central Bucharest, thus mapping the difference between the central area, in which interwar reinforced concrete constructions predominate, and a low rise low density area with predominantly vernacular so-called “wagon” houses.
The typological classification presented in this book was employed as so-called World Housing Encyclopedia classification, recently completed research projects dealing with the built stock of Bucharest such as “Multihazard and vulnerability in the seismic context of the city of Bucharest” HERA, run by a consortium led by the University of Bucharest (
Five of the reports included in the book were co-authored by the author of the book with eng. Ilie Sandu, who passed away afterwards. Two of the reports are new with regard to the online encyclopedia: the multi-storey masonry construction and the Modernism building with commercial ground floor. The book however does not cover all types, a typology before 1850 not being presented in detail. This might be a further contribution to the online encyclopedia. Also, the post-communist housing in the 21st century is not included, as the book deals only with historic types. Post-communist single-family housing has been the topic of a recently published book with the contribution of the author and that might be as well a further contribution to the online encyclopedia.
From the reports the most valuable part is providing two types of tables:
– one on the “seismic deficiency”, “earthquake resilient features” and “damage patterns” for each structural element – the “seismic features” table;
– one where for each “structural deficiency” a “seismic strengthening provision” is provided.
This way the principles of strategic planning are translated to building scale and made possible a structural pathology and diagnosis, and also the formulation of a so-called “mission” (Bostenaru, 2005). These might build further developments of the mentioned taxonomy. The tables are very well made and for their publication is necessary a format of a book as their size is more than what a journal or a book article would allow. Also the
drawings are valuable, partly of them in 3D, done with archiCAD ®, which visualize the structural type in plan, (3D) section and axonometric view. A lack might be that the provided plans do not correspond to the buildings which are photographed, as archive research did not allow to identify all those buildings and some of them were taken from the experience of the authors. But nevertheless the building plans are a valuable resource for research on the functional structure of building typologies in this part of the world. Compared to the online version the reports don’t include few photographs and drawings based on the book edited by Bălan et al (1982), due to permissions reasons. But even without, also for this book it is valid what was said about the Encyclopedia as a whole: “For some construction types, this is one of the few, if not only, places where such detailed information is available in English (Brzev et al, 2004).”
The book follows the layout of the World Housing Encyclopedia from 2007, which has been changed twice since. Maybe it should be wished for having a fluent text instead of the question and answer format of the form, which has been partly implemented online since.

Otherwise not all numbered information is suitable for this and it might have required organizing some of the information across the building types.
The book finished without conclusions, although the conclusion that interwar buildings are the most vulnerable will have been drawn in the further research of the author and other scholars. These buildings are now subject of expert evaluation and retrofit. Good conclusions are drawn by the publications mentioned.
Maybe the sub-title is too restrictive: the book is not only about vulnerability, but also retrofit is subject of each report.


  • Bălan, Ş., Cristescu, V., Cornea, I. (eds.) 1982. Cutremurul de Pamînt din România de la 4 Martie 1977, Academia Republicii Socialiste România, Bucureşti.
  • Bostenaru Dan, M. 2004. Review of retrofit strategies decision system in historic perspective¬, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 4 (3) 449 – 462.
  • Bostenaru Dan, M. 2005. Typological Analysis of Early Reinforced Concrete Housing Buildings in Romania, in Proceedings of the 4th European Workshop on the Seismic Behaviour of Irregular and Complex Structures, Thessalonica, Greece, A. J. Kappos (editor) article #16.
  • Bostenaru Dan, M., Pinho, R. 2005. Assessment Criteria for Historic Reinforced Concrete Housing Buildings in Europe, in Proceedings of the International Conference “Earthquake Engineering in 21st Century (EE-21C), Skopje and Ohrid, FYROM. ISI Proceedings 1570-761X.
  • Brzev, S., Greene, M., Arnold, C., Blondet, M., Cherry, S., Comartin, C., D’Ayala, D., Farsi, M., Jain, S., Naeim, F., Pantelic, J., Samant, L., Sassu, M. 2004. The Web-Based World Housing Encyclopedia: Housing Construction In High Seismic Risk Areas Of The World, in Proceedings of the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Vancouver, B.C., Canada Paper No. 1677.

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