Hillary Morales Robles: My Path as a Historic Preservation Architect

¡Saludos! Bienvenidos a todas y a todos. My name is Hillary Morales Robles. I am a dual-degree graduate student in Architecture and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and graduated Magna Cum Laude in Environmental Design Laude in Environmental Design and Western Art History from the University of Puerto Rico.

Since my teenage years, I saw my career as an act of service, which led me to work alongside multiple community-led projects and non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico and South America. I found the passion for applying a cross-disciplinary approach in design that explores the intersections of heritage protection and adaptive reuse, policy-making strategies, and considering social and environmental impacts. Also, I have experience doing documentation and recording of historic buildings in Puerto Rico and other locations such as the UNESCO heritage site in Aphrodisias, Turkey. Currently, I’m working as a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania on climate change impact assessment on built heritage and a student representative in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee in Weitzman’s architecture department. This upcoming Fall, I will begin the end of my academic path with a thesis that explores design strategies for disaster relief protection of historic buildings in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

Over the summer, I’ll be working as an architecture intern at the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) of the Heritage Documentation Programs in Washington DC. The project consists of the documentation and recording of Simón Bolívar’s equestrian monument located at the park in front of The Interior. I look forward to learning and practising my skills as a historic preservationist and architect and contributing to preserving an essential piece of our Latin American culture. I’m so excited to start this new project with HABS and the National Park Service. Since I was eighteen years old, I utilized the HABS photography collection as one of my primary resources for various research projects and dreamed about working in the program. When I received the call about my selection, it was surreal. I feel incredibly grateful and honored to be part of the team and look forward to learning the standards that are well recognized in the preservation field. My 18-year-old self achieved her dreams!

My path as a female Puerto Rican historic preservation architect has been long and arduous, but I believe these experiences and skills will have a powerful purpose at the end of the road. And hopefully, become a cross-disciplinary designer that incorporates creative tools to preserve culture, heritage, and community wellbeing; and help open the path to future female Latin American architects.

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