Historic Preservation

Christine Beckman, MSHP'13

Design Engineer

How did you find your current job?
I was originally introduced to the company I now work for while I was in engineering school in the same town. Once I discovered that they partially worked with historic buildings, I started contacting people in the company and began networking with them. When the time came to fill the internship requirement of the Historic Preservation program at Penn, I contacted the president of the company about the possibility of me working there for the summer. After some negotiations, I was hired as a summer intern in 2012. After I returned to school, I stayed in contact with my coworkers and expressed interest in the possibility of a future at the company and was offered a full-time position near graduation.

What kind of work are you doing?
Currently I am helping design structural engineering solutions for both historic and new buildings by completing calculations, modeling buildings, and gathering information on site visits.

What attracted you to the firm or job?
I really like this firm because not only do they have a department that combines my two interests, engineering and preservation, but also the company has a wonderful culture that is truly devoted to the well being and happiness of their employees.

How did your education at PennDesign prepare you for your current tasks?
During my graduate studies at PennDesign, I was exposed to current techniques used to study, document, and conserve or preserve historic buildings and their physical and temporal contexts. These techniques allow me to approach existing buildings with a greater understanding of their significance to not only architectural professionals but also the local community, which will drive if and how we choose to preserve the structure.

Are there specific courses and instructors that influenced you philosophically?
Although all of the coursework and instructors that I encountered while at PennDesign were topnotch, my most influential interactions occurred with Professor Michael Henry. As an adjunct professor, Professional Engineer, and registered architect, Mr. Henry travels to Philadelphia several days a week to share his professional knowledge of and passion for the technical preservation and conservation of buildings based on a deeper understanding of the structure’s past and our own personal thinking processes. He exposes his students to many of the skills necessary to recognize issues associated with existing buildings, how to prove what the actual issue is, convey that information effectively, and how to think about interventions in his series of courses, Building Pathology and Diagnostics and Monitoring.

Any top moment(s) of your education here?
One of the main reasons that I chose to come to PennDesign was the abundance of opportunities given to students to travel and study our professions in different settings. I was fortunate enough to participate in several courses that involved travel, including a studio set in New Orleans and a summer praxis course in Montana. Being able to immerse ourselves in the environment of the structures we were studying allowed my peers and me to quickly gain an understanding of the context of the structures and cultural landscapes that we were privileged to study.

What’s next?
Next on tap for me is to gain structural engineering experience with historic and new buildings at my current job so that I am able to sit for my Professional Engineer exam in four years. I am excited to bring my PennDesign education with me and apply my knowledge to effectively conserve the buildings I have the opportunity to work with.

Are you keeping in touch with others from your class/the Penn community?
Yes, I am keeping in touch with others I met while at Penn. Although we were only together for less than two years, I formed life-long professional and personal relationships with many of my classmates. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

Any words of advice for prospective students?
At PennDesign, interdisciplinary interaction is encouraged and fostered. These interactions broaden our education beyond the classroom and help build professional networks that expand globally. I would encourage all prospective students to seek out these cross-disciplinary opportunities whenever possible because we can learn so much from our peers who possess different histories and experiences than ourselves.

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