Built to Defy Severe Quakes, the New Wilshire Grand Is Seismically Chic

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Just 33 feet wide at its narrowest, the concrete core of the New Wilshire Grand, at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street, will provide crucial support for the 1,100-foot-tall hotel and office building. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

Under construction at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street, the New Wilshire Grand will be the tallest structure built in a seismic hot zone when completed in 2017. Its design has undergone the most sophisticated earthquake modeling performed on a building in Southern California.

But even that has its limits.

“Earthquake design is a fuzzy proposition,” said engineer Leonard Joseph, who works for the firm Thornton Tomasetti. “You can’t ask an engineer to guarantee that a building will never collapse in an earthquake. That is not fair, and that is not the deal that society has made with the construction world.

“You can ask that it will behave as well as possible, meeting at least the code requirements. Even that’s a heavy responsibility.”

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