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Anna Gasha

Anna Gasha is a Doctoral Candidate in Historic Preservation at Columbia GSAPP. Her research interests include the intersections between engineering and historic preservation, and the history and politics of science and technology within preservation practice. While at Columbia, she has served as a research assistant for the Urban Heritage, Sustainability, and Social Inclusion initiative hosted by the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development, and co-curated the “Conversations on Monuments, Preservation, and Protest” mini-series for the GSAPP Historic Preservation podcast.

Anna graduated with an Sc.B. in Materials Engineering and a B.A. in History of Art and Architecture from Brown University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi), and holds an M.S. in Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials from University of California, Berkeley. She holds a State of California Professional Engineer license for civil engineering.


The determination of what constitutes valid technoscientific expertise is political. Within the field of historic preservation, conceptions about science and technology shape, and are in turn shaped by, what constitutes acceptable interventions on cultural heritage. On the international scale, what counts as valid technoscientific expertise both is enforced by and facilitates the movement of acceptable knowledge across national borders. To date, there has been little scholarly work to address the following questions: Who has the authority to define what constitutes relevant technoscientific knowledge for built cultural heritage? What ways of knowing have been transferred transnationally, and how do they relate to existing local conditions and heritage?

In response, this dissertation will examine several vehicles for such transnational movements of technoscientific knowledge, particularly focusing on the transfer and adaptation of solutions to address natural hazards, disaster risk, and vulnerability through interventions on built cultural heritage, as facilitated by multilateral institutions from 1945 to present.

For the purposes of this dissertation, “built heritage” encompasses both “tangible” built objects and “intangible” constructive practices and knowledge. Given this inclusive definition, this dissertation explores three groups of actors that have facilitated and promoted ways to transfer technoscientific knowledge regarding built heritage and disaster risk: science and engineering communities of practice; international heritage organizations; and development agencies. Each of these actors has typical methods to define what constitutes valid technoscientific knowledge and to enforce and disseminate those definitional boundaries through the use of particular vehicles, ranging from building codes, standards, charters, and similar normative documents; the dispatch of professionals with appropriate technoscientific expertise; and international aid and technical cooperation efforts. These actors draw upon the presumed authority invested in technoscientific knowledge while also reinforcing the boundaries of what qualifies as valid technoscientific expertise, to the exclusion of other ways of knowing. This dynamic results in a complex normative landscape that privileges certain forms of external knowledge, often coinciding the devaluation of local forms of knowledge and heritage, including those embedded within traditional constructive practices.