Fall Historic Preservation Course Descriptions
Historic Preservation Theory & Practice
This lecture course is an introduction to historic preservation theory and practice, as it developed in the West, from the Enlightenment to the present moment of globalization. We will focus especially on how preservation theories and experimental practices helped to redefine and advance new conceptions of architecture, cities and landscapes. Historic preservation is often described as a young discipline, on account of the fact that most of its current institutions and legal frameworks were created in the late twentieth century. But many of the foundational ideas and practices that gave rise to contemporary historic preservation have much deeper historical roots. For instance, our contemporary notion of world heritage can be traced back to the dawn of international law in the mid 18th century. The present practice of maintaining registries of listed monuments also has historic precedents in 16th century Rome. We will touch upon the histories of these and other theories and practices, identifying key figures, texts, and projects. We will also examine the birth and legacy of different schools of historic preservation. Many of these schools took form during the nineteenth century, together with the rise of republicanism, nationalism, imperialism, and capitalism, and during the twentieth century, variously framed by fascism, communism, internationalism and the welfare state. We will focus on understanding the relationship between historic preservation and the social, political and economic context in which it acquired currency and value. Finally, we will ask questions about how theory and practice relate to one another, and how a solid grasp of the discipline's history can help us articulate new ways of thinking and doing historic preservation.
Structures, Systems, and Materials
This course focuses on historic architectural materials (stone, brick, terra cotta, metal, concrete, cast stone, mortar, paint, wood). The course model is to explore: sourcing and production of the materials, identification, use in the fabrication of architectural elements, basic properties that limit or allow their use and performance as architectural materials. This course also serves as the foundation for the subsequent material-based conservation courses such as: 1. Architectural Metals, 2. Concrete, Cast Stone and Mortar, 3. Brick, Terra Cotta and Stone, 4. Architectural Finishes in America, and, 5. Wood.
American Architecture I
This course will examine the development of American architecture beginning with the earliest European settlements and culminating in the creative work of Henry Hobson Richardson and his peers in the late 19th century. Beginning with the earliest Spanish, French, Dutch, and English colonial architecture, we will explore the American adaptation of European forms and ideas and the development of a distinctly American architecture. The course lectures and readings examine high style and vernacular architecture in rural and urban environments throughout the settled parts of the United States. The course will be supplemented with walking tours and the examination of original drawings and early architectural publications in Avery Library.
Preservation Studio I: Reading Buildings
Studio I is the core course of the first semester, and revolves around the study of a section of New York City – in this academic year, the study area is Midtown East. Additional field survey work will be carried out at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The goal of this Studio is to give the student the skills to read and document buildings – their design, their context, and their history – by using a wide array of tools, from using one’s eyes and other senses to using drawing, photography, and research. Studio I gives students the foundation necessary to understand and document buildings, to place them in their cultural continuum, and to make a case for their preservation. Studio work includes graphic presentations, written assignments and oral presentations.
This workshop is about developing dexterity in architectural representation in order to conceptualize and materialize the environmental, spatial and social aspects of an individual piece of architecture. We will take advantage of new developments in technology to build a three dimensional computer massing model, which can be effectively manipulated and reproduced. A set of graphic images will be produced to address a series of questions with shifting scales and topics. These images will be examined critically for their ability to foster an understanding of the meaning of the building.
Design Workshop: Design with Historic Architecture
This is an architecture studio offered for both historic preservation students with a design degree and Masters of Architecture students in their final year of study. The problem for the studio is a major addition to an existing building that requires an understanding of the meaning of the old building – all of the ways its form and materials express the values it sought to represent and serve at the time – and the ways that meaning might or might not be extended, enriched and brought forward by the addition.
International Cultural Site Management
Impetus for the preservation of cultural heritage has developed through the recognition of sites as non-renewable resources. Training is readily available in the specific tasks required to implement preservation, such as documentation and conservation. However, with the exception of sporadic seminars, conferences, short courses or on-the-job training, far less attention has been paid to the larger, more complex and comprehensive issues of management, the process by which the individual components of preservation are fit together and either succeed or fail. This course will utilize the conservation process in the Burra Charter as the basis for a rational approach to managing cultural sites. The course will have an international focus and will review case studies from both historic and archaeological sites. It will be divided into three parts: the first will focus on the compilation of background information and identification of the key interested parties; it will then progress to the analysis of the site significance and assessment of existing conditions and management constraints; and finally, the development of the management policy and strategies for its implementation will be reviewed. The delicate balancing act between cultural enhancement and exploitation will be explored, as well as the need to periodically monitor and reassess management policy.
Pattern Books and Builder’s Books
How did Americans understand what was appropriate, fashionable, or technologically up-to-date for their homes, houses of worship, and commercial places before glossy shelter magazines or HGTV?
The transmission of architectural ideas through publications has a long and important tradition in American building practice, and pattern books are at the center of much of this country’s vernacular built environment. Pattern books from the 18th century to the latter 19th offered building plans and elevations for emulation and the advance of architectural fashion. Improvements in publishing and transportation resulted in the distribution of thousands of mass-market pattern books to every part of the country. Through these publications, both professional and amateur architects could reach an broad audience, and the work in the pattern books influenced both the carpenter-builders of rural America and the home owners of a burgeoning middle class.
The course will use the unparalleled resources of Avery Library to help students learn about the major American pattern books, catalogs and periodicals of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Books and other printed sources will be considered both for design ideas and for the attitudes toward community that they conveyed. Upon completion of the course, the student should be able to recognize the features associated with particular pattern books, and thus be able to roughly date and categorize a broad array of American vernacular buildings.
This course will introduce the student to the history, development, and identification of building hardware from the mid-18th century to the early 20 century. The course will address “rough” building hardware such as nails, screws and bolts, as well as “finishing” hardware, such as door locks, hinges, sash fasteners and pulleys. Through photos and examination of actual examples, students will learn about the various metals, fabrication methods and surface finishes used in producing hardware. Students will use period catalogs and patent records to research and identify hardware. A basic understanding of metals is useful (Architectural Metals A6768) but is not required for this course.
GIS for Preservationists
A geographic information system (GIS) allows us to visualize and interpret data about places. The creation of maps using GIS can help us answer geographic questions in ways that are quickly understood and easily shared. For this reason, GIS has become a central tool in many fields, including historic preservation, where it has been used successfully in a variety of ways including documenting threats to historic resources and telling the stories of communities and places. In this class we will cover the basics of the popular software ArcMap with a focus on ways GIS can be integrated into the practice of historic preservation.
Interiors of the Recent Past
This course will examine interiors of the 20th century in various categories including; commercial, residential, furniture and finishes, domestic, and finally the practice of preserving interiors. The design of interiors leading up to the 20th century was largely dictated by architects, however a breakthrough in commercial production of materials after the industrial revolution allowed for a new professional category; interior designers and decorators in both commercial and residential contexts. We will discuss this new wave of professional design and the commercialization of interiors through the emergence of home stores, magazines for the everyday housewife, and other manufactured goods. The course will conclude on the practice of preserving interiors through the listing of spaces on local, state, and national register; researching interiors; and restoring interiors using appropriate methods and vendors.
Stone Conservation Workshop
This workshop is a hands-on class dedicated to the conservation of stone. Students will be working at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx on a monument from a preselected group of monuments. A conditions assessment will be produced, followed by a proposed treatment program and the design of a testing program for at least one treatment. Conservation treatments will be performed on the monuments. The objectives of the class are to learn how to conduct a conditions assessment; learn and practice investigative techniques; design a testing program; implement a testing program; and perform conservation treatments.
This course will build on the techniques learned in earlier course work and apply newly acquired knowledge of building materials to a historic building. The goal of this course is to train the student to look and learn how to investigate a historic building using an actual site. There is also a hands-on component for conservation treatments incorporated into this course work. Exercises will include documentation, sampling, materials analysis, synthesis of information, recommendations for conservation and for the final project, conservation treatments.
Historic Preservation Planning
This course is a comprehensive introduction to the field of preservation planning that examines the constitutional underpinnings of landmarks regulation and the emergence of historic preservation as a discipline analogous to urban planning. Also addressed are the issues of applying preservation planning tools, including local individual and historic district designations, National Register nominations, special zoning and conservation districts, easements, and restrictive covenants. Financial incentives for rehabilitation, including investment tax credits, property tax incentives and revolving loan funds, are examined. Current issues in preservation planning including combating sprawl and preserving rural landscapes will be addressed. Guest speakers highlight preservation in Chicago and Pittsburgh illustrating similarities and differences in practices in the field in other American cities.
This course reviews the structural and decorative uses of metals in buildings and monuments. The metals covered include include iron and steel; copper and copper alloys including bronze and brass; lead; tin; zinc; aluminum; nickel and chromium. The seminar will examine the history of manufacture and use; mechanisms of deterioration and corrosion; and cleaning, repair, and conservation.
Historic Preservation Colloquium (2nd year required)
As the last core requirement of the Historic Preservation program, and as the last academic experience all program students share as a group, Colloquium marks a transition to the specialized work of the year leading up to graduation. Positioned at the mid-point of the curriculum, Colloquium is structured as a collective inquiry into preservation practice and theory, and as an opportunity for participants to reflect not only on preservation’s role in the world, but on their own roles within preservation as well.
Historic preservation (a/k/a heritage conservation) is a complex and evolving field, and Colloquium is a critical exploration of that evolving complexity. In spirit, preservation is a hybrid enterprise, part professional discipline, and part popular movement. The field is encyclopedic (and expanding) in its geographic and chronological scope. Materially, it addresses both tangible and intangible cultural products and practices. In terms of physical scale, it runs the gamut from micro (molecular analysis of construction materials) to macro (management of entire cultural landscapes). Shaped by its distinct but overlapping commitments to conservation, advocacy, and interpretation, it is profoundly interdisciplinary, embracing a broad range of specialties within the field, and dependent on an equally broad range of outside collaborations and alliances. It is global in its reach, but local in its effects, striving to balance the top-down expertise of an international policy infrastructure with the grass-roots energy of individual communities addressing particular concerns.
The class is a structured workshop to aid students in forming their own professional identities within this expanding and shifting field, by reinforcing their understanding of its intellectual content and by encouraging them to participate actively in the discursive process by which it unfolds in theory and in practice.
As a baseline, a series of guided discussions during the first half of the semester will re-examine some of the underlying Big Ideas of the field (such as Significance and Cultural Value; Authenticity and Integrity; Place and Context; Memory and Heritage), with the aim of looking at these now-familiar concepts in a new way.
The second half of the semester will consist of student-led presentations and discussions. Students will be required to present arguments on polemical issues relevant to their own independent research, to express a commitment to a particular point of view, and to defend it against challenges from their class members.
Preserving Modern Architecture
The first half of the semester will be dedicated to a general discussion of the issues, supplemented with case studies in both the US and abroad. The second half will probably focus on developing a preservation plan for Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, the utopian community focused on the sustainable city in the Sonoran desert in Arizona dating from the early 1970s. This will involve the preservation of the built sections in the context of the social and sustainability ideals of the on-going community as well as their desire to continue building Soleri’s plan. The challenges will be architectural, social and physical.
Soviet Avant-Garde Architecture 1917-1933: How to Preserve an Experiment
Law for Preservationists
This course is designed to provide students with answers to the 10 questions all preservationists need to know about the law:
1. Where does government get the authority to regulate private property for preservation purposes?
2. What are the appropriate limits to government regulation of private property?
3. From a legal perspective, what are historic resources?
4. What regulatory tools exist to protect historic resources from private actions?
5. What regulatory tools exist to protect historic resources from government actions?
6. What are special legal considerations regarding the protection of religiously owned properties?
7. What laws address the protection of other specific historic resources?
8. What legal tools encourage the voluntary protection of historic resources?
9. What other legal strategies can be employed to save historic resources?
10. What are the latest trends and developments in preservation law?
In the process of learning the answers to these questions students will develop an understanding of preservation law, its application, the legal system, and the interface between preservationists and lawyers.
Original Histories: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Birth of American Modernism
Special attention will be paid to conceptual and practical issues of historic preservation and to engaging with primary objects through field trips, guest speakers, and object-based learning in Avery Drawings & Archives and Avery Classics Collection. Maintaining the physical integrity of Wright’s buildings is an ongoing challenge because his radical experiments with structure, materials, and unusual building sites often pushed the technological limits of construction, a problem compounded by the fact that he also designed building interiors, furniture, lighting fixtures, sculptures, and wall reliefs. His exceptional practice demands that preservationists consider an expanded field of action, since much of his work remains conceptual, drawings, models, prints, exhibitions, and texts. Wright was a savvy self-marketer and recognized the power of media to advance his ambitions, carefully staging photographs, installations, and narratives to curate a particular image of himself for public consumption. How can we preserve these intangible histories, as well as the tangible ones? The picture that emerges of this singular architect is remarkable for its complexity and its relevance to contemporary concerns about sprawl, urban density, environmentalism, preservation, and social practice.
Advanced Research / Independent Study I
Each semester, there is the possibility of registering for “Advanced Research” within the Historic Preservation Program. This is what you may know as “Independent Study”. The student plans a course of self-study and inquiry, and seeks an advisor who will review and grade the work. If you wish to register for Advanced Research, students must submit to the HP office a one-page description of the project, including methodology, goals, and final product, as well as the advisor’s name and the number of credits before the end of the add-drop period. Advanced Research may be for 2 or 3 credits, depending on the scope of the work, and this should be determined at the time of application for the Advanced Research. Indicate who the faculty advisor will be – and discuss your interest in working with that faculty member to gain their approval. Although students will do the research on their own, the advisor will review the final work against the description and goals of the proposal and provide a grade to Andrew Dolkart as the central on-line grader. Faculty do not receive any additional financial compensation for their work as an advisor to an Advanced Research project. Students may not use paid employment within or outside the University as a basis for an Advanced Research project. An e-mail note to the HP Office from the faculty advisor is requested before the end of the add/drop period indicating that the faculty member is advising a student in an Advanced Research project, and approving the proposal submitted by the student. Advanced Research may involve library research, lab work, fieldwork, or other research methods, and the final product could be a paper, or digital design, or map, or something else alternative to a standard paper - whatever the student and advisor agree is the best format for illuminating the results of the research.
Myanmar at a Turning Point (Advanced Studio)
This studio, organized in conjunction with the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) in Yangon, Myanmar as client, will assist YHT in thinking through the issues it faces in devising and implementing a comprehensive plan for the preservation and restoration of the historic colonial and pre-colonial center of the city while, at the same time, preserving and protecting the rights of the low-income residents of the downtown community. An additional partner in the project will be the Law Department of Yangon University.
Myanmar is going through a period of rapid social, economic and political change. After more than 60 years of military dictatorship, the country’s leadership has, over the past couple of years, been moving toward a more democratic society: lifting censorship, releasing political prisoners and creating new laws, institutions and policies that have been opening new avenues of discourse and public participation. International economic sanctions against Myanmar have, for the most part, been lifted, and international investment is pouring into the country. The city’s center has suffered from decades of neglect, but between lack of development and international sanctions, much of the original colonial and pre-colonial architecture remains relatively intact. YHT is a fairly new NGO with government, international and foundation funding that is dedicated to restoring and preserving the severely decayed historic center of the city of Yangon. Thus far they have been cataloguing the buildings in the city’s center that have architectural and historic value and have obtained an agreement from the government to place a temporary moratorium on the demolitions in a designated area of the city’s center. Most buildings in the area are severely deteriorated. Current residents of most of the downtown buildings are extremely poor – some live in buildings that were intended for residential use, many live in buildings that were originally designed for commercial use.
YHT would like, in the long run, to preserve and restore buildings of aesthetic and historic value. To do so, they will have to navigate the tensions that will inevitably arise between the needs of the current residents to remain in their homes and communities and the displacement pressure that will be generated by the physical work of restoration as well as the market pressures that are already driving up real estate values and that will only increase as the physical and aesthetic condition of the area improves.
The work of the studio will involve looking at the Myanmar planning and legal infrastructure (and lack of infrastructure) that relates to the intersection of housing rights and historic preservation, looking at how several other countries have addressed similar issues, and developing a set of recommendations for appropriate planning, legal and policy measures. In addition, GSAPP students may be paired with Burmese law students to interview some local residents to understand the issues on an individual level and to gather information that will inform the recommendations.