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Tuesday, May 17 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Architecture) Post-Disaster Data Collection: Testing New Tools in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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Rapidly collecting and processing survey data on the ground is a challenge in any disaster context, regardless of its aim. With response efforts rightfully focused on humanitarian efforts to assist survivors and attend to casualties, it can be particularly difficult to collect data about built heritage, since it is often considered a secondary concern. This was certainly the case in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the January 2010 earthquake. While UNESCO, World Monuments Fund, and others assisted in assessing the damage to historic buildings, efforts were challenged by the loss of heritage documentation and professionals in the earthquake, the diminished capacity of local institutions, the lack of accurate maps and cadastral data for Port-au-Prince, and the sheer extent of the structural damage and affected population in and around the city. Efforts to rapidly collect conditions information for historic resources did not prompt a level of local preservation action that was as immediate, pervasive and sustained as hoped.  Five years after the earthquake, recovery continues. Now more than ever, the lack of basic information regarding the relationship between historic resources and the surrounding city impedes local efforts to match limited funding with worthy conservation projects. With this in mind, a quarter of Port-au-Prince that is characterized by more than 200 turn-of-the-century Gingerbread houses is serving as an experimental model for a graduate studio at Columbia University that involves students from its masters programs in historic preservation, urban planning, and real estate development. The students are using open source software developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to test rapid survey methodologies and tools, building the most comprehensive urban conditions survey to date for this wide swath of the city.  While designed to function in the challenging environment of post-disaster contexts, the application is not specific to heritage or architecture, but is highly adaptable and customizable. A critical aspect to this effort is the open source nature of the software and its capacity to collect data offline (without a data connection), making it ideal for disaster contexts and readily accessible by users on the ground. Through testing in the United States and during fieldwork in Haiti, this research will provide an evaluation of the challenges and opportunities the use of such technologies present in post-disaster heritage surveys.


William Raynolds

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Will Raynolds is an adjunct assistant professor at GSAPP and a cultural heritage consultant contributing to World Monuments Fund projects in Haiti. This effort also involves twelve Columbia University graduate students who should be acknowledged as collaborators in this research... Read More →


Erica Avrami

James Marston Fitch Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Erica Avrami, PhD, is the James Marston Fitch Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. She previously served as Director of Research and Education at World Monuments Fund and as a Project Specialist... Read More →

Tuesday May 17, 2016 11:30am - 12:00pm EDT
Room 515