Historic Preservation

Making Sense: Interpreting Place in the 21st Century
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Our interpretations of subjects are clouded by our intellects.’’
    —Carl Purcell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs 'behind' the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one.’’
    —Susan Sontag
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘When two things occur successively we call them cause and effect if we believe one event made the other one happen. If we think one event is the response to the other, we call it a reaction. If we feel that the two incidents are not related, we call it a mere coincidence. If we think someone deserved what happened, we call it retribution or reward, depending on whether the event was negative or positive for the recipient. If we cannot find a reason for the two events' occurring simultaneously or in close proximity, we call it an accident. Therefore, how we explain coincidences depends on how we see the world. Is everything connected, so that events create resonances like ripples across a net? Or do things merely co-occur and we give meaning to these co-occurrences based on our belief system? Lieh-tzu's answer: It's all in how you think.’’
    —Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.’’
    —Johan Huizinga
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Directing is an act of interpretation.’’
    —James Watkins
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘I do not document anything, I give an interpretation’’
    —Andre Kertesz
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A interpretation exists because of what we find between the notes.’’
    —Renee Fleming
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The text has disappeared under the interpretation.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Great design is so many things all at the same time. It is emotional, functional, and responsive. It creates an unwritten dialogue, a connection, between itself and those who experience it. It is open to interpretation yet created for a specific purpose. It creates meaning and value.’’
    —Marcel Wanders
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art’’
    —Susan Sontag
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All knowledge that is about human society, and not about the natural world, is historical knowledge, and therefore rests upon judgment and interpretation. This is not to say that facts or data are nonexistent, but that facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.’’
    —Edward Said
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The best way to refine an interpretation is by getting out and performing.’’
    —Joshua Bell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.’’
    —Freeman Tilden
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The art of interpretation is not to play what is written.’’
    —Pablo Casals
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The material memories are not usually part of what is said about a picture, and that is a fault in interpretation because every painting captures a certain resistance of paint, a prodding gesture of the brush, a speed and insistence in the face of mindless matter...’’
    —James Elkins
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection.’’
    —Freeman Tilden
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time.’’
    —William J. Brennan, Jr.
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We doubt that any facts actually exist. We only have observations and interpretations. Most of the interpretations remain questionable.’’
    —Peter J. Carroll
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Today, we're encouraged to believe that we should have a verbal interpretation for what we view as art – when in fact the words are an intrusion on the experience.’’
    —Ken Danby
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We see, not change of aspect, but change of interpretation.’’
    —Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.’’
    —William Shakespeare
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All interpretations of history are propaganda for one idea or another.’’
    —Selma Dabbagh
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A work survives its readers; after a hundred or two hundred years, it is read by new readers who impose on it new modes of reading and interpretation. The work survives because of these interpretations, which are, in fact, resurrections: without them, there would be no work.’’
    —Octavio Paz
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.’’
    —Oscar Wilde
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.’’
    —Henning Mankell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘To abstract an original idea is to invent; to abstract reality or a realized experience is to interpret’’
    —Ian Semple
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.’’
    —Margaret J. Wheatley
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art… Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world. ('This world'! As if there were any other.) The world, our world, is depleted, impoverished enough. Away with all duplicates of it, until we again experience more immediately what we have.’’
    —Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The aim of interpretation is not agreement but understanding.’’
    —Donald Davidson
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All interpretation, all psychology, all attempts to make things comprehensible, require the medium of theories, mythologies, and lies.’’
    —Hermann Hesse
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.’’
    —George Eliot
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.’’
    —George Eliot
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘There are no facts, only interpretations.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.’’
    —Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.’’
    —Rebecca Solnit

Historic preservation addresses change responsive to the historic environment. At a time when society increasingly realizes the historical and cultural value of that inherited environment and what has been lost through the destruction of buildings, landscapes, and communities, the field of historic preservation has become central to the design, adaptive use, planning, and management of buildings, cities, and regions. By understanding the time dimension in human culture, it identifies history as an integrated component of the continuous change responsible for the material, psychological, and symbolic qualities of our environment. The Graduate Program in Historic Preservation provides an integrated approach for architects, landscape architects, planners, historians, archaeologists, conservators, managers, and other professionals to understand, sustain, and transform the existing environment.

The identification and analysis of cultural places and their historic fabric, the determination of significance and value, and the design of appropriate conservation and management measures require special preparation in history, theory, documentation, technology, and planning. These subjects form the core of the program, which students build upon to define an area of emphasis including building conservation, site management, landscape preservation, preservation planning, and preservation design for those with a previous design degree.

Through coursework and dedicated studios and laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design as well as through partnerships with other national and international institutions and agencies, students have unparalleled opportunities for study, internships, and sponsored research. Graduates can look toward careers focused on the design and preservation of the world's cultural heritage including buildings, engineering works, cultural landscapes, archaeological sites, and historic towns and cities.

 

Contact Information

Graduate Program in Historic Preservation 
115 Meyerson Hall
210 South 34th Street
Philadelphia PA 19104-6311
215.898.3169
pennhspv@design.upenn.edu

Frank Matero 
Chair and Professor
215.898.3169
fgmatero@design.upenn.edu

Randall Mason
Associate Professor
215.898.3169
rfmason@design.upenn.edu

Aaron Wunsch
Associate Professor
215.898.3169
wunsch@design.upenn.edu 

Francesca Russello Ammon
Associate Professor 
215.746.8235
fammon@design.upenn.edu

Pamela Hawkes
Professor of Practice
215.898.3169
pwh@scattergooddesign.com

Micah Dornfeld
Administrative Assistant
215.898.3169
micahdor@design.upenn.edu

Student Groups

The Penn Preservation Student Association (PPSA)

The Penn Preservation Student Association (PPSA) is a student-led organization that represents students in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. The purpose of the PPSA is to advocate on behalf of students’ interests, meaningfully engage with faculty, and foster a sense of community among students. It does this by holding regular meetings, bringing speakers to campus, and organizing events. The PPSA also strives to represent students' opinions and concerns to faculty and administrators through regular communication. It has three main focus areas: curriculum development and faculty relations; career planning and professional development; and social events and outreach.

The PPSA consists of three elected representatives from each class year and strives to reflect the diversity of student’s interests and backgrounds. The current PPSA representatives for academic year 2019-2020 are: Xue Fei Lin (MSHP‘20), Amanda Stevens (MCP/MSHP‘20), Maggie Sollmann (MSHP‘20), Meris Westberg (MSHP'21), Başak Şıklar (MSHP'21), and Julia Marchetti (MCP/MSHP'21).

Members of the PPSA can be reached at penndesignppsa@design.upenn.edu.  Please feel free to reach out to them at any time!