Case Studies in Critical Conservation: Architecture and Cities

 This course analyzes international case studies in the conservation of buildings and urban environments as a means for developing projective strategies for interpreting and curating buildings, landscapes, and cities. Specifically, the course examines the use of design to conserve and convey the significance of sites. Students will conduct in-depth research and analysis of sites and their social landscapes with the aim of curating aspects of the built environment to reveal its inner histories. We will tackle the controversies inherent to urban conservation and attempt to develop proposals that engage these controversies rather than dismissing them.

Each class session is structured as a modified symposium wherein students engage selected scholars and practitioners in the analysis of case studies in urban and architectural interventions as interpreted through the lens of critical conservation. The first part of the course focuses on theoretical and historical readings and case studies that identify core issues relevant to interpretive planning, including material culture analysis, intangible heritage and cultural intimacy, visitor accessibility, the public experience of places, and policies affecting the interpretation and planning of sites. The second part of the course focuses more closely on the interpretation of urban sites, the various meanings of “conservation” in an urban context, and, in particular, the curation of the urban environment as an act of critical conservation. Topics for class sessions include Conservation by Design; Interpreting the Modern; Conflict and Resolution Planning; The Historic City in Its Modern Setting; Industrial Archaeology in Principle and Practice; Community Development and Preservation; Material Conservation and Its Social Histories; the Conservation of African-American Historic Sites; Agricultural Urbanism and Civic Memory; and Public Celebration as Ephemeral Urban Planning. Students will complete a series of short written assignments throughout the semester as well as a final paper/project.