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Current Students and Research

Scroll below to learn more about the current Ph.D. in Historic Preservation students’ research.

Anna Gasha

Anna Gasha joined the Historic Preservation PhD program at Columbia GSAPP in 2019. Her interests include the intersections between engineering and historic preservation, relationships between cultural heritage and memory, and reflections of transcultural exchanges in the built environment. 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), and holds an M.S. in Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials from University of California, Berkeley. She has a Professional Engineer license to practice civil engineering in the State of California.

Contact Anna Gasha: ag4187@columbia.edu

Dissertation Abstract

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.

Shuyi Yin

Advised by Professor Jorge Otero-Pailos, Shuyi Yin is currently working on her dissertation titled, “A History of 3D Digitization Technology and Its Global Networks in Architectural Heritage Preservation,” which traces the deep histories of technology that influenced the emergence of 3D digitization technologies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries globally. Through archival research that maps the involvement of technologies, agents, and institutions from America, the European Union, and China in pivotal heritage sites worldwide, the dissertation shows the intersecting forces that have come to shape the now ubiquitous architectural heritage digitization technologies and heterogeneous global organizational networks. By focusing on transnational projects and partnerships in which architectural heritage, digitization organizations, funding sources, and legal and policy regulations vary, the research examines techno-heritage-organizational networks as enabling contributors of “soft power” in larger international affairs and geopolitical maneuvering.

Contact Shuyi Yin: sy2813@columbia.edu

Robert Louis Brandon Edwards

Robert Louis Brandon Edwards recently joined the Historic Preservation PhD program at Columbia GSAPP and is currently in the coursework stage.

Contact Robert Louis Brandon Edwards: rle2134@columbia.edu