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Unnatural Disaster

09 November 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Venue: 114 Avery Hall
Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
1172 Amsterdam Avenue
New York

Unnatural Disaster: Infrastructure in Puerto Rico before, during, and after Hurricane Maria



Ivis Garcia Zambrana, The University of Utah

Marcelo López-Dinardi (’13 MSCCP), Texas A&M University

Mark Martin Bras, Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust

Andrés Mignucci, University of Puerto Rico

Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Columbia University

Ingrid Olivo, GIZ Sustainable Intermediate Cities Program

In conversation with Hiba Bou Akar, GSAPP, and Monxo López, Hunter College


In January of 2018, four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced a plan to privatize the US territory’s publicly owned power utility (PREPA). This action—exposing infrastructure at the convergence of colonialism, finance, and 150 mile-per-hour winds—came as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. Nonetheless, its implications are sure to be felt well beyond the thousands of residents who remained without power months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.


Rosselló’s more recent push to commence privatization of the island’s public school system emphatically echoes and underscores these facts. While many fields are involved in addressing the current crisis on the island, we believe a more focused, historically informed conversation on the roles of architecture, planning, and preservation in both the production and management of these ever-more-frequent emergencies—especially as they pertain to infrastructure—is warranted.


Co-organized by Columbia GSAPP Urban Planning, Urban Design, and Historic Preservation Programs, the Center for Spatial Research, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, in conjunction with the Buell Center’s “Power: Infrastructure in America” research initiative, which considers infrastructural systems and processes as sites of sociotechnical and ecological governmentality at the intersection of neoliberalism and nationalism.


Free and open to the public.