Responding to the complexities of contemporary urbanism, Critical Conservation proposes methods for preserving the past while moving toward the future. Cities are understood to be both tangible accretions of buildings and landscapes, but also kinetic cultural and social systems. Critical Conservation takes on both. Understood in this way, it shares historic preservation’s concerns for the built environment, but extends the analysis into the cultural histories of urban landscapes with a specific focus on global heritage.
As a distinct concentration area within the Master in Design Studies program, it understands conservation as a projective act of design, engaging the future as much as it does the past. By examining the political struggles inherent in urban conservation, students develop new strategies and practices to address the aspirations of local communities and the future possibilities of cities that have yet to be realized. This post-professional program allows students to construct their own program of study, availing themselves to courses across the GSD as well as from those across the University, including History of Art and Architecture, Anthropology, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Sociology, and Public Health.