Bringing expertise in architecture and earthquakes to our own backyards

With research roots in natural disasters management and and architecture, Maria Bostenaru Dan now studies how urban landscapes contribute to overall well-being
February 2022

Meet

Maria Bostenaru Dan

Architecture & Urban Planning Researcher
Maria Bostenaru Dan
degree
Ph.D., Architecture, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism
ResearchGate member since
2009
current role
Scientific Researcher in the Department for Research Management, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism
Currently researching
Well-being and the urban environment
home country
Romania
Based in
Bucharest, Romania

Maria’s research

Maria Bostenaru Dan studied architecture and engineering throughout her academic career. But since graduating with her Ph.D. in architecture in 2012, her research has touched a variety of disciplines in a range of countries, with a special focus on disaster management throughout Europe.

Her early research focused on architecture through the lens of earthquake engineering in Germany and Romania. In 2002, she received a Marie Curie Early Stage Research Fellowship in Pavia, Italy, to study whether to retrofit earthquake-damaged buildings before or after they have been repaired. She returned to Pavia in 2005 as a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow to study the preservation of historic buildings in Europe constructed with reinforced concrete — a subject that she also studied extensively in Germany.

“Reinforced concrete is a very polluting form of cement, so it’s really a question of sustainability,” Maria says. “Once you have a building of reinforced concrete, it’s best to try and preserve it and reuse those materials rather than demolish it and build another.”

“I actually like very much looking across Europe at different topics: Japanese gardens across Europe, reinforced concrete across Europe, women architects across Europe, and so on.”
- Maria on connecting her research interests across borders

Maria has studied the design of gardens throughout Europe. Here, she stands in the Italian garden section of Bucharest's botanical garden.


Maria has received two Marie Curie fellowships to study restoration methods for earthquake-damaged buildings in Pavia, Italy.

Maria appreciates the opportunities she has to travel for her work — in 2001, she took in some sun in Nice while organizing a session on natural hazards impact for the European Geophysical Society Conference.

Much of Maria’s work has focused on studying sustainable restoration methods for reinforced concrete buildings, like this one in Milan designed by Giuseppe Terragni.

Maria shared some of her research experiences at a conference in Hungary in 2011.

In 2007, Romania joined the European Union, and Maria returned to Bucharest on another Marie Curie fellowship — this time, through a reintegration grant for researchers funded by the European Commission. Her interest in disaster management took her around the world; for instance, to Canada in 2010, where she researched disaster architecture photography on a grant from the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Most recently, Maria’s research has focused on architecture and quality of life. In 2016, for example, she published on sustainable urban development with a focus on human well-being in the journal Environmental Pollution. In 2018, she presented on renewable energy as a core contributor to resilient cities. At the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism where she works as a researcher, she is currently part of an action funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) to improve researchers’ mental health. As part of that action, she recently hosted a fellow architect from Turkey to discuss how to "green" offices for better mental health. She also presented at the ECLAS conference 2021 on how window views — whether they contain greenery or concrete, for example — influence well-being, partly inspired by her own experiences working from home in Bucharest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maria's journey

A native of Romania, Maria completed a combined bachelor’s and master’s program in architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, in 1999. She has been employed at the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest since 2008, and she received a Ph.D. in architecture there in 2012.

Her experience as an academic in Romania has not always been easy; promotions are hard to come by, she says, since teaching positions at universities — rather than those focused on research, like hers — are more highly valued.

Despite those challenges, she’s been able to produce a wide variety and deep breadth of research. She says she’s conscientious about adding projects and publications to ResearchGate, and she appreciates receiving notifications about citations and her publications' achievements so that she can share them on social media. She’s also able to make valuable connections with other researchers on the platform.

While Maria’s academic career may have its roots in earthquake engineering, her research has taken her on a journey through diverse fields such as landscape architecture, sustainability, mobility, women in architecture, and how urban architecture relates to psychology — all of which are relevant to today’s environmental and public health challenges.

“I cooked a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic and was attending these online conferences. I always try to travel culinarily to the place of the conference and cook some sort of local food, even if I cannot travel there in person.”
- Maria on keeping up with conferences during the pandemic

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