Historic Preservation

The Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ACL) of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation supports the program’s curriculum in a state-of-the art facility where conservation science and technical studies come together to advance teaching and research in Architectural Conservation. The ACL is led by Professor Frank Matero, who founded the lab upon his arrival at Penn in 1991 to provide the necessary scientific facilities for teaching the newly launched curriculum in the technical conservation of the built environment. Since then, both the field and Penn’s role in educating its leaders has greatly expanded through innovative approaches to documentation, recording, field survey, material analysis, condition assessment, and treatment evaluation of historic structures and sites. 

The ACL supports a materials-based inquiry in courses dedicated to the study of historic and traditional building materials and construction systems including their characterization, diagnosis, and treatment, both remedial and preventive. This includes providing the necessary dedicated space and equipment for the Program’s specialized courses in building conservation science and its seminars in masonry, wood, finishes, and other architectural materials and systems. It also provides a technical support facility for the Program’s Center for Architectural Conservation.

The ACL also houses the School’s comprehensive historic building materials study collection, an encyclopedic resource for conservators, scholars, and all design students who desire first-hand exposure to the materials and materiality of traditional architecture and buildings ranging from early mudbrick of the first cities to contemporary terracotta rainscreen. Recent acquisition of the Vermont Marble Company’s international archives and stone collection and the historic 19th c plasterwork collection from the Alhambra add focused collections to its already vast examples of stone, brick, terracotta, mortar, metals, and painted finishes.