The report contains the results of the authors’ fieldwork conducted in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of the Topic Seminar-Studio course on Urban Regeneration in the Americas: The Conservation and Development of Urban Heritage Areas offered jointly by the Departments of Historic Preservation and City and Regional Planning during the Spring Semester of 2022. The course explored critical aspects of the rapidly changing urban heritage conservation research and practice field that requires interdisciplinary approaches and methods of intervention. Central among them are the unprecedented challenges emerging from the enlarged role placed on urban heritage by international agreements on equitable and sustainable development.
Taking as a starting point the growing international consensus on the significant role played by urban heritage in the development of communities, the course analyzed the social, economic, and physical impacts of the growing tourism trade in historic centers listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites where city governments and investors increasingly use adaptive rehabilitation approaches to put urban heritage to contemporary uses. This approach—while responding to the growing demand for residential, retail, craft production, and office space in historic neighborhoods of cities of all sizes—often conflicts with the interest of urban communities to preserve their intangible and tangible heritage. The ensuing issues are at the cutting edge of the research and practice of urban heritage conservation, city planning, urban design, and architecture, making their study suited for a multi-disciplinary approach.