Culture, Conservation and Design

This proseminar addresses theoretical foundations of Critical Conservation as an evolving discipline that bridges between Cultural Meaning, Identity and Context. Its goal is to enable us to understand how we use / misuse the past; how we value the present to make nuanced decisions about conservation and change. Critical Conservation is not about rules and opposition to change but rather, about understanding underlying forces and agendas to more effectively negotiate socially constructed meaning.

The course is organized around three topics:
· Conservation, Cultural Meaning & Context addresses the social construction of dynamic cultural meaning associated with places, artifacts and history. It investigates the questions about the past, history, permanence, temporality, obsolescence and authenticity and applies them to how we characterize the identity of places.
· Conservation, Cultural Identities, Power & Exclusion addresses the role of modernity and tradition in creating personal and group identities that are embedded, transportable and temporal. Issues include history / heritage, nostalgia / tourism, ecological identity / nature. The role of ancestor worship, government use of racial zoning, urban renewal, stigmatization of the other and private use of exclusionary amenities will be examined in relationship to how cultural groups use underlying agendas to manifest power, identity and control of places.
· Conservation, Values & Regulation addresses the mechanisms of advocacy groups, legislation and regulation to control context by design and identity narratives. Critical Conservation decisions in relationship to the creation of progressive places, a just city, energy efficiency, affordable housing and density will be addressed.

The seminar is open to all GSD students and required for Critical Conservation students. There are no prerequisites. Course work includes a one-page synthesis of weekly reading assignments, three case study presentations with short papers and a paper / presentation of a final research project framed in the topics explored in the seminar.