Critical Conservation applies issues of culture, history, and identity to design and development transcending such outdated dialectics as past-future, traditional-modern, and us-them.

By engaging 21st-century questions of environmental, social, and economic sustainability, Critical Conservation serves an ever-more pluralist and global society. It provides designers, real estate professionals, planners, and others with a foundation to understand the cultural systems that frame conflicts inherent in making progressive places. Unlike preservation programs that presume the permanence of architecture and use top-down regulation to reinforce existing power structures, Critical Conservation extends beyond issues of age, history, and aesthetics to offer a framework of theory and research tools encompassing social, political, and cultural meaning. This enables students to make nuanced decisions about the impact of conservation in complex urban/natural places.

Today when everything has a knowable history and meaning can be ascribed to anything, conflicts over place-making reveal the uses and abuses of history. Similarly interpretations of “nature” legitimate particular cultural values to control places just as gentrification and wars marginalize groups. This program offers students an understanding of embedded and temporal cultural systems, the tensions between progress and tradition, the issues of permanence and obsolescence and underlying forces often masked by the union of ideologies, preservation, and politics. Candidates propose research topics that apply Critical Conservation issues to topics in urbanism and landscape, art and design, real estate, energy, architecture, and related design fields.

Please visit the Critical Conservation website.


Affiliated Faculty and Associates

Anita Berrizbeitia, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture
Diane Davis, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism
Jerold Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design
Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning
Toshiko Mori, Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture
Erika Naginski, Professor of Architectural History and Director of Doctoral Programs
Antoine Picon, G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology
Jorge Silvetti, Nelson Robinson Jr. Professor of Architecture
Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture
Stephanie Yuhl, Associate




by Qinqin Wu (MDes ’15) Contemporary types of reenactments challenge the prevalent view that conservation…


Susan Snyder, George Thomas and K. Michael Hays, Faculty Advisors

Spring 2015