Stephen Tobriner is a Professor Emeritus of Architectural History in the Architecture Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught a survey of world architecture and cities for thirty-five years. His philosophy of teaching can be found in an essay he wrote when he received an award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs in 2004. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard where he specialized in Baroque architecture and Mesoamerican architecture. He authored The Genesis of Noto, an 18th Century Sicilian City, which was published in 1982 (and republished in Italian as La genesi di Noto, una città italiana del Settecento in 1989.)
Tobriner holds a long fascination with the politics, sociology, and technology of earthquake-resistant engineering. He has written extensively on architecture and cities in Sicily and the history of reconstruction after earthquakes in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. He has lectured throughout the United States and in Italy and was a Visiting Professor at the University of Palermo. He has investigated damage in contemporary earthquakes around the world as a member of teams sponsored by the United Nations, the National Science Foundation, the Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.
His book, Bracing for Disaster: Earthquake-Resistant Architecture and Engineering in San Francisco, 1838-1933, along with a guidebook to seismic retrofits on the University of California Berkeley campus entitled Bracing Berkeley [PDF, 21.3 MB], co-authored with Mary C. Comerio and Ariane Fehrenkamp, and published by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, appeared in 2006, the year he retired from University teaching.
Tobriner lives with his wife in Berkeley, California, and Orcas Island, Washington. He continues to write papers and give public lectures while also pursuing his passion for sculpting in terracotta.