School of Design

Postgraduate research student profiles

Flavia Kiperman

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Endangered heritage cities in the rapidly changing urban contexts of former Portuguese colonies.


The objective of this research is to identify the challenges of preserving heritage centers and historic landscapes in rapidly changing urban contexts. The research will also consider the effects of urban growth on the physical and socio-cultural aspects of heritage preservation in times of disaster.

In cases of excessive building density, many heritage cities experience a depletion of historical, cultural and environmental assets. This depletion is especially evident in regions of rapid economic transformation and urban growth, such as the developing world. For example architectural heritage sites remaining from Portuguese colonisation tend to be located in coastal, riverine or hillside areas. This is due to the strategic defensive value of such settlements. The expansion of informal settlements with substandard construction into greenfield lands near these heritage centres may increase the vulnerability of these already disaster-prone centres.

This study is a controlled comparison of heritage-listed case study cities with a shared history of Portuguese colonization. It may include cities such as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Old Goa in India, Old Town of Galle in Sri Lanka, and Macau in China.

Why my research is important

Neighboring communities situated close to heritage centers are often intensely engaged in the sites’ everyday life. They may, for instance, be responsible for the maintenance of local crafts and traditions. However, the growth and development of these communities has an impact on the heritage core. As they become denser, these communities may cause deforestation, pollute rivers and diminish open green spaces. If left unmanaged these impacts are often irreversible. The inevitability of development forces city planners and managers need to consider whether they are able to sustainably manage development to preserve the historic authenticity and cultural significance of heritage sites. They must also evaluate whether the classical policies of preservation are suitable for addressing explosive urban growth and unplanned contributions from neighbouring low-income communities. Every aspect of that environment is extremely important and essential to understanding and preserving a given site; and that can only be experienced by visiting the place.


  • APA - Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Safety Net Top-up Scholarship