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New class to explore collapse of World Trade Center towers

22 August 2002

BERKELEY - Nearly one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, students at UC Berkeley will begin a detailed look at how the landmark World Trade Center towers were designed and built in a new Freshman Seminar, "World Trade Center: Design, Construction and September 11 Events." Freshman Seminars, taught by some of the campus’s most distinguished scholars, are special courses for no more than 15 freshmen.

This seminar will be taught by Abolhassan Astaneh, professor of civil engineering at UC Berkeley and one of only two engineers awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to study first-hand the collapse of the towers. It will touch upon various designs and techniques that can improve a building’s seismic safety and bomb-resistance.

"The World Trade Center towers were remarkably resilient for having been hit by Boeing 767s, but the intense, jet-fueled fires ultimately led to the collapse," said Astaneh. "We’ll look at how changes in fire-proofing codes at the time affected the towers’ ability to withstand the flames that ensued after the planes hit."

Discussion also will include the role legislation and politics play in the construction of monumental buildings.

Class guests may include speakers from the Safe Skyscraper Coalition, a group formed by the families of the World Trade Center victims; a person who escaped from the towers; and engineers from the firm that designed the structure of the towers.

– Sarah Yang