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Artist Biography ~ Randolph Langenbach


photo by Mehmet Tetik

Langenbach In Istanbul, Turkey, 2000


Randolph Langenbach first became known as a documentary photographer and writer because of his work documenting the textile mill towns of New England and landscapes of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. His groundbreaking work on the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester N.H. resulted in a series of exhibitions and the book, Amoskeag, Life and Work in an American Factory City, co-authored with Tamara Hareven, published in 1978 and still in print. Later, his exhibition in England at the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the companion book Satanic Mills, published by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, contributed to changes in British government policy away from systematic demolition of historic 19th Century textile mills.

Langenbach’s educational background is both in Architecture and in Building Conservation, with degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Graduate School of Design in the United States and the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies in York, England. During the time of his independent work on the textile mill towns, he worked as a consultant in historic preservation planning and design in both New England and the San Francisco Bay Area, which included work on the National Historical Park in the planned industrial town of Lowell, Massachusetts, among other projects.

From 1984 to 1991, he was Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of California,
Berkeley where he began his research project to investigate the seismic vulnerability and methodologies for the strengthening of historic masonry buildings. In 1992, he began work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a consultant on the Loma Prieta Earthquake recovery operations in California, and later moved to FEMA Headquarters in Washington DC as a Senior Analyst.

In 2002, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize Fellowship in Historic Preservation at the American Academy in Rome for his international research and writing on traditional construction in earthquake areas. While at the American Academy, he undertook research on the damage and recovery operations after the earthquake in Molise, Italy, an earthquake that occurred near the beginning of his year at the Academy, and also received a grant from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) to continue research in Turkey. Also, while at the Academy, he produced the slide/video The Piranesi Project, A Stratigraphy of Views of Rome which has achieved special recognition from the City of Rome Department of City Planning.

His research on the conservation of masonry buildings in earthquake areas was first inspired by his work on the vast brick and stone New England textile factories, but this work has been focused primarily on buildings of traditional construction in Kashmir, India, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Central America. After suffering the devastating setback of the loss of almost all of his prior work as a writer and photographer when his home was destroyed in the 1991 Oakland Firestorm, he resumed this project with the investigation of the traditional Ottoman construction that survived the two 1999 earthquakes in Turkey that devastated thousands of reinforced concrete buildings of more recent vintage.

Since then, he has served as a consultant on this subject to UNESCO in Turkey, Georgia, and India; to the World Monuments Fund and UNESCO in Bam, Iran; to UN-HABITAT in Pakistan, and to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Afghanistan. During these assignments, he has documented the damage to historical structures in India from the Bhuj (Gujarat) Earthquake of 2001, the 2002 earthquake in Tbilisi, Georgia, the 2003 Bam, Iran earthquake, and the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. He has been an invited keynote speaker at over a dozen conferences around the world, and his work has recently influenced post-disaster government policy in Pakistan.

He has published numerous works on the subject of traditional earthquake resistant construction, and, in 2009, UNESCO published his book Don’t Tear It Down! Preserving the Earthquake Resistant Vernacular Architecture of Kashmir. This book has been re-published in the USA and the UK and is now in print. His work can be found on the web at and at

<click here for Randolph Langenbach Art Notes>