Sara Wermiel

2016 Visiting Research Fellow

Fellows Architectural Engineering (ARCH) Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes (HOST)
  • Current position 2016 Visiting Research Fellow

Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA / Preservation of built heritage and urban development: a comparison of practices in Belgium and the U.S. / September to November 2016

Sara Wermiel is an independent scholar who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She completed her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fields of Urban Studies & Planning and History of Technology. Her principal research area is construction history, and she has published on topics such as novel building materials of the nineteenth century, building typologies (warehouses, lighthouses), fire insurance, and building contractors. In addition to teaching (adjunct) at Boston University and Boston Architectural College, she works as a historic preservation consultant. In 2012, Sara collaborated with Ine Wouters and Inge Bertels of the VUB’s AE-LAB on a study of historical warehouses in Brussels: history, location, defining characteristics, and issues related to their preservation.

As a Brussels Centre for Urban Studies visiting research fellow, Sara will study the regulations, incentives, and citizen initiatives aimed at preserving historic properties and districts in the Brussels region, and compare these with practices in the Boston (Massachusetts) region. The focus is privately-owned properties: how can such properties and settings be preserved, integrated into new development, and reused in ways that respect their historical and architectural values? Through interviews and other research, Sara will explore, e.g., how historic properties in private ownership in the Brussels region are being protected and the results of the current preservation regime. What incentives are available for private owners to encourage respectful preservation? How are citizens involved in preservation? And how do these activities compare with those in Boston and Massachusetts? What can each place learn from the other? During the fellowship period, Sara will give lectures about the history and practice of historic preservation in Massachusetts and the U.S.