Building Conservation and Renewal: Assessment, Analysis, Design

What are the spatial, material, and broad cultural values inherent in a building or site that must be understood to craft interventions and additions that will complement, sustain and enhance the original work while addressing both architectural and technical integrity?  This course will introduce architecture students to the functional, technical, legal and environmental principles of working with existing buildings to ensure their continued technical and programmatic viability.   Designed specifically to ground the participant in the methodologies of building conservation and renewal and to introduce the tools necessary to successfully approach working with existing buildings, the course will include lectures, guest lectures, discussions from readings, and local field trips. 

Globally, roughly 35% of construction activity is devoted to work on existing structures. This percentage is steadily rising, 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. Maintenance, repair and renewal is therefore a fundamental component of contemporary architectural practice increasingly requiring facility in techniques of rehabilitation, adaptive reuse and where required, conservation or historic preservation. 

We will look critically at the development of the international Charters and Standards employed in working with historic structures and they impact our approach to modifications to any existing building from a technical, design and regulatory standpoint. As these standards continue to evolve and adapt, we will particularly address the question as to how the apparatus of conservation is changing to best complement the legacy of modernism and the recent past – by far the largest component of the contemporary built environment.

We will review the fundamentals of performing a building assessment including field documentation, analysis and evaluation. While this course will not address building physics and materials conservation in detail, participants will gain familiarity with a broad range of both traditional and contemporary materials through case studies and the GSD Materials Collection within Loeb Library.  

While interventions must include sound technical solutions, any modification from conservation treatments 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 intervention design case studies on both traditional structures such as Stanford’s Richardsonian Romanesque Old Chemistry Building and Harvard’s Widener Library, and modern buildings including works by architects such as Alvar Aalto, Louis Kahn and Eero Saarinen.  Though geared to students in the M. Arch curriculum, the course is open to all interested students.  Course requirements include short student presentations on assessment and evaluation, an intervention design exercise and a final exam.