HIS-4384. Building Conservation and Renewal: Assessment, Analysis, Design

What are the spatial, material, and  cultural values inherent in a property that must be understood to craft interventions and additions that will reveal, complement, sustain and enhance the original work while appropriately addressing social, architectural and technical integrity?  This course will introduce architecture students to the functional, technical, regulatory and environmental principles of working with existing buildings to ensure their continued cultural, 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 by the Instructor and guest experts, and in-class discussions from readings.  Students will prepare a short analytical paper and will develop and present an assessment and intervention design exercise on a property of the student’s choosing.

Globally, roughly 35% of construction activity is devoted to work on existing structures – 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. Repair and renewal are therefore fundamental components of contemporary architectural practice increasingly requiring facility in techniques of rehabilitation, adaptive reuse and conservation.  

We will look critically at how the international Charters and Standards employed in working with historic structures impact our approach to modifications to any existing building from a technical, design and regulatory standpoint, and will particularly address the question as to how the apparatus of conservation is changing to best serve both underrepresented constituencies and the legacy of modernism and the recent past.

While interventions must include sound technical solutions, any modification from conservation 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 and modern buildings including works by architects such as Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn. Though geared to students in the M.Arch curriculum, the course is open to all interested students.


David Fixler







Course ID: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2020-2021 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

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Center for the Environment

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Phone: (617) 495-0368

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