Posted on November 15, 2019 by Sean Garnsey

(November 15, 2019) — A UTSA architecture alumna has received top recognition for her research on the integrity of redeveloped historical sites.

The U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites named Azadeh Sagheb M.S. ’19 a third-place finalist for the 2019 Murtagh I Graham Prize, the prestigious award for work in the area of historic preservation.

Sagheb, whose master of science in architecture degree at UTSA focused on historic preservation, earned the finalist spot for her thesis, Authenticity and Integrity: Adaptive Reuse of Industrial Heritage Sites in San Antonio.

“I am honored to be selected as one of the three finalists. I put so much effort and time into fulfilling a project that could bring immense opportunities for the growth of San Antonio,” Sagheb said. “I aspire that my project can be considered for implementation by auspicious authorities.”

Sagheb’s research created a rating system for the assessment of integrity for redeveloped historical sites, specifically industrial buildings. The rating system is meant to evaluate the success of a proposed design project before its implementation, considering as a priority retaining the authenticity of the original structures, effectively linking redevelopment, economic impact and preservation.

A preservation architect for the World Heritage Office in San Antonio, Sagheb chose to do a comparative analysis of three case studies for industrial sites within the buffer zone surrounding the UNESCO-designated San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site.

The analysis demonstrates whether the industrial heritage sites can undertake a change of their original use and physical features without affecting value, authenticity and integrity.

“This system could also be utilized for assessing other types of historic buildings and sites,” Sagheb said. “It also broadens the spectrum of possible uses to be considered compatible and provides a strategic road map to interconnect neighborhood redevelopment, economic growth and heritage preservation.”

While she was a student at UTSA working primarily with historic preservation, Sagheb learned a lot about the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and World Heritage Buffer Zone, which ultimately helped when selecting her thesis topic, she said.

“Rehabilitating the existing historic buildings will not only help to preserve their historic values but also assist us in building more sustainable neighborhoods and urban environments,” she said. “I felt so connected to the tangible and intangible heritage of this city. Therefore, I decided to focus and initiate a meaningful and practical project that San Antonians could benefit from.”

Architecture department chair Sedef Doganer and historic preservation program coordinator Angela Lombardi cochaired Sagheb’s thesis.

“We are so proud of Azadeh’s success in this very prestigious national award,” Doganer said. “This is also a superior achievement for our historic preservation program within the Department of Architecture, and a milestone to put our program on the map of the great programs in the U.S.”

With UTSA at the forefront of the 21st century preservation challenges, Lombardi said the students in the program are trained to think “globally, act locally and be able to respond to the unique cultural features of places.”

“Azadeh’s work is an outstanding example of our potential. We hope that this award will open fabulous successful opportunities in her future career,” Lombardi said. “She demonstrated how preservation theories and regulations can be effectively applied, broadening instead of limiting the spectrum of possible compatible rehabilitation strategies. Her work is exceptional due to her rigorous methodological framework and innovative thinking.”

— Valerie Bustamante

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— Sean Garnsey