Theses Master's

Experimenting with Vulnerability: Proposing an Alternative Hurricane-Related Vulnerability Assessment Beyond Site-Driven Approaches in Puerto Rico

Santana-Miranda, Andrés D.

Within the current climate crisis, vulnerability assessments are one tool to explore how ecosystems and communities are vulnerable to a changing climate. Architectural heritage has not been an exception in this process. While vulnerability assessments that address the historic built environment exist, many of these tools omit how critical historical events —ranging from planning and preservation policy to urban development and infrastructure siting— can potentially exacerbate the vulnerability of a heritage context to climate change and its associated impacts. Most of the existing methodologies follow a site-driven approach assessment instead of attempting to understand how the challenges faced by a site might extend beyond its boundaries.

Considering this gap among heritage-focused vulnerability assessments, this research experiments with the existing research to investigate new ways for vulnerability assessments to incorporate historical factors beyond the particularities of a specific historic site and how these can further influence the vulnerability of historic properties. As a case study, this research presents an understanding of the complex histories and geographies involved by studying overarching questions of Puerto Rican history and how these inform the Central Aguirre Historic District's conditions in the southeast municipality of Salinas.

Puerto Rico has faced various natural hazards throughout the past century, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, storm surges, wildfires, landslides, and coastal erosion. Acknowledging that climate vulnerability in Puerto Rico extends beyond the challenges faced by climate change, an overview of the complex histories of the archipelago and the selected case study identifies a set of constructed vulnerabilities that frame the possibility of proposing new avenues for vulnerability assessment tools that go beyond the boundaries of the object while addressing the challenges faced by historic resources beyond borders. In the end, the proposed alternative framework will be able to capture the climate-related vulnerabilities of historic resources while also responding to and analyzing the environmental and historical particularities of the archipelago.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica C.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 29, 2024