Building and Urban Conservation – Assessment, Analysis, Design

What are the values inherent in a property, site or district that must be understood to craft conservation policy and interventions that will reveal, complement, sustain and enhance the original work while appropriately addressing socio-cultural, aesthetic and technical integrity?  This course will introduce students to the functional, technical, regulatory and environmental principles of working with existing buildings and districts to ensure their continued technical and programmatic viability.   

Globally, roughly 35% of construction activity is devoted to work on existing structures – making the sustainability mantra “the greenest building is the one already built” increasingly relevant as we seek strategies to minimize the impact of construction on the environment. Repair and renewal are therefore fundamental components of contemporary practice increasingly requiring facility in techniques of conservation planning and execution, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse.  

Designed specifically to ground the participant in the methodologies of conservation and renewal and to introduce the tools necessary to successfully approach working with existing buildings in established precincts, the course will include lectures by the instructor and guest experts, and in-class discussions from readings.  While interventions must include sound technical solutions, any modification from conservation to renovation and addition designs must address the full complement of values necessary to enable an economically viable, socio-culturally relevant rehabilitation. We will examine a range of conservation and intervention case studies at the building and urban scale for both traditional structures and modern buildings.

We will look critically at how the international Charters and Standards employed in working with historic fabric impact our approach to modifications to any existing building or site from a technical, design and regulatory standpoint, and will particularly address the question as to how the apparatus of conservation is changing to best serve both underrepresented constituencies and the legacy of modernism and the recent past.

Evaluation will be based upon regular participation in discussion of readings, submission of a short analytical paper and a final project that will develop and present an assessment and intervention design exercise on a property of the student’s choosing.

The course is open to all interested GSD students.


Up to five seats will be held for MDes students.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.