Letter from the Chair of Historic Preservation
Conservation of built heritage takes on renewed urgency in times of social change, so the idea and practice of historic preservation has never been more important. Heritage is often celebrated, and always contested. Every society, in its own way, interprets and cares for its inherited environments. How conflicts and stewardship are sorted out-how the material past is preserved-is the core issue for our field. How do we want to be remembered? How do we manage the built environment to reflect that?
As with the other disciplines in the School of Design, historic preservation takes on the complex, long-term challenges of understanding, designing, imagining and managing built environments. First among them is retaining the cultural significance of buildings, archaeological sites or landscapes so that the building blocks of social well-being-attachment to collective memory, access to public spaces, shared and sustainable stewardship of environments-are provided.
The challenging environment in which designers work today demands ever greater levels of commitment and creativity. The conservation of historic buildings-fabric, systems, meanings-is a core competency for preservation; the interpretation and curatorial care of rare cultural sites retains has ever greater social relevance (as cultural touchstones in changeful times, and as tourism magnets); urban regeneration and the preservation of complex, large-scale landscapes test our ability to plan and collaborate. PennDesign's Graduate Program in Historic Preservation is proud to take a leadership role in research, practice and teaching the conservation of built environments, continuing a 30-year legacy of preservation education at Penn preparing the next generation of leaders in the field.
At PennDesign, faculty and students pursue all aspects of preservation-technical, material, humanistic, urbanistic, economic. The time-tested curriculum provides the essential foundations for preservation practice, many opportunities for specialized study, and hands-on experience through praxis projects. As scholars, we are dedicated to advancing knowledge for our field. As practitioners we take on projects where important heritage is at risk, test new methodologies and ideas, and work collaboratively to demonstrate the power of preservation work to contribute to the public good. Our work finds us involved in our own backyard here in Philadelphia, across the country with colleagues in the national preservation movement, and in international circles of practice and scholarship.
Elsewhere on this website, you'll find information about our people, our work and our curriculum. Please feel free to get in touch.
Randall Mason, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair