HIS 4392. Case Studies in Conservation and Adaptive Re-use

Traditional conservation practice is increasingly proving inadequate to address the cultural, economic, social and environmental challenges facing the diverse array of buildings and sites currently in need of renewal.  A new focus on creative thinking is necessary to accommodate both the volume and often erratic quality of the resources under consideration, but more profoundly to acknowledge that science and scholarship address only part of the full range of values and issues that must be taken into account to ensure the relevance, quality and ultimate success of any intervention.  While this approach does not circumvent the normal processes of assessment and evaluation it does recognize the essential need for a critical overlay in order to achieve a design synthesis that balances conservation and repair with appropriate future use, perception and socio-economic value.  

Case Studies in Conservation and Adaptive Re-Use will build upon the philosophical and practical underpinnings of the fall semester Building Conservation and Renewal course, and though that course is not a prerequisite, some familiarity with the intellectual and regulatory framework associated with working with historic sites is useful and recommended. The course will include a series of case studies on a variety of traditional and modern resources given by the instructor and guest lecturers, who will explore contemporary theoretical, political and practical issues that attend working with existing properties.  

The primary course deliverable will be student authored case studies from a curated project list that raise critical questions about conservation, interpretation, and the design of interventions.  Students will work in teams – with regular critiques throughout the semester – to develop a critical analysis that identifies the material and cultural values that define each property and suggest how best to manage their conservation and guide future development.  The ultimate goal will be to understand how the process of change – whether as a singular event or in multiple campaigns – has used, challenged or rejected attributes of the host structure, and the degree to which the result still embodies the design intent, meaning and quality of each building campaign.  Short essays and regular discussion of course readings will also be required.  


David Fixler






Course ID: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2020-2021 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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