The Resonance of Tectonics, Desiccation,
and Regulation in the Collapse of AO286
On the 19th of September 2017, an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 hit Mexico City, leading to the collapse of the seven storey building located on 286 Álvaro Obregón Avenue, or AO286, causing the death of 49 people.
Though Mexico City’s vulnerability to tectonic forces has been responded to by enacting progressively stricter building codes, 38 additional buildings collapsed that day, close to five thousand more structures were severely damaged, and 366 people were killed.
Resonant Collapses is an investigative platform that articulates forces of tectonic plates, lake desiccation, and building code regulations to reveal seismic destruction not just as the result of earthquakes, but also as a complex event entangled with environmental violence and institutional negligence. The investigation exposes a form of seismic governance where the State mandates strict building regulations with one hand, while with the other progressively deteriorates the soil upon buildings are founded, all while failing to prosecute those who break the law.
Resonant Collapses presents spatial and cartographic timelines, regulatory databases and architectural representations at interscalar jumps across time, from five centuries of colonial control of water to the split-second of the collapse of AO286; and across space, from the planetary processes of tectonics to the constructive detail of a slab, to contribute to the public and political conversation which addresses the question:
Why did AO286 collapse?
The 3 Forces & AO286 as a Seismograph
This platform conceptually and materially reconfigures AO286 into a seismograph to reveal how the building was able to detect, register and present evidence of different forces which resonated upon it, thus leading to collapse. Just as a seismograph senses independent movements across directions X, Y, and Z, this platform reveals how AO286 recorded the forces of tectonics, desiccation, and regulation in its architecture.
Explore the three different forces to examine how AO286 was able to detect, register and present evidence of violence. Each section first explains the force and how it approached the site of AO286, was registered by the building leading to the moment of its collapse. The investigation concludes by bringing the three forces together and how their resonance contributed to the building’s structural failure.
 Though the data on the amount of deaths and damage in the wakes of the 2017 19S earthquake remain contested, the platform references the following documents:
El Universal. “Se incrementa a 366 la cifra de muertos por sismo del 19-S,” March 10, 2017. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/metropoli/cdmx/se-incrementa-366-la-cifra-de-muertos-por-sismo-del-19-s.
Cruz Atienza, Víctor Manuel, Shri Krishna Singh, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Geofísica, Mario Ordaz Schroeder, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Ingeniería. “¿Qué ocurrió el 19 de septiembre de 2017 en México?” Revista Digital Universitaria 18, no. 7 (September 27, 2017).
Servicio Sismológico Nacional. “Reporte Especial 20170919.” Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, September 21, 2017.
 The reconfiguration of AO286 as a seismograph follows Eyal Weizman's work on political plastic and forensic aesthetics, Susan Schuppli's work on the material witness, and Clyde Snow's osteobiography. See Weizman and Schuppli. Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth. Edited by Anselm Franke and Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014 and Keenan, Thomas, and Eyal Weizman. Mengele’s Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics. Edited by Anselm Franke. Berlin: Sternberg Pr, 2012.
Arau, Santiago, and Diego Rabasa. Ruptured City. No Ficción, 2018.
Melesio, Lucina. Mexico City’s Troubled Relationship with Water. Physics World, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFpN_-mTKaA.