Heritage Planning

Historic preservation shouldn’t be seen as an end in itself – a way to separate a few valuable sites and prevent them from changing. Rather, preservation of buildings and landscapes should be seen as a means to the end of good stewardship, social well-being, prosperous and sustainable communities, and rich cultural memory. The PennPraxis team brings expertise in all aspects of historic preservation and cultural resource planning. Through research and an extensive portfolio of practical projects, our faculty, staff, and students have worked around the country and around the world to design preservation solutions that advance the curatorial care of buildings, sites, and cultural landscapes while activating these heritage places as civic assets.

Services include:
  • Survey design and documentation
  • Archival research
  • Cultural landscape analysis
  • Heritage-informed design
  • Conservation management plans
  • Interpretive planning
  • Community-engaged heritage advocacy
  • Preparation of historic register nominations

Urban Heritage Project

The Urban Heritage Project addresses issues at the intersection of built heritage, cultural landscape, societal change through multi-disciplinary research and practice.

B&W photo of Maxfield fire house

The Boonton Preservation Project will develop a preservation plan for the Maxfield Engine House--a firehouse constructed in 1893.

B&W photo of group of women having meeting around several tables

Image: Camp for unemployed women in Atlanta, Georgia, ca. July 1934; via: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

This project establishes the first comprehensive inventory of sites associated with unemployed women during the New Deal (specifically, 1933 to 1937), sometimes referred to as “She-She-She Camps.” A counterpart to the male-centric Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), these residential camps we

 Row of abandoned storefront. One has sign that says "Smokin Aces Dance Hall" and another that says "For Rent"

The Detroit Tactical Preservation Program is a partnership between PennPraxis and the City of Detroit's Planning and Development Department that focuses on the partial and incremental reuse of specific spaces within a larger building.

 Map of fort drive cultural landscape. Key landmarks are the Blair road and Mamie D Lee cultural garden

The National Park Service DC Small Parks Project aims to evaluate and manage change for the hundreds of parklets, roundabout circles, and other small parks created by or extended from the original L’Enfant Plan for Washington, DC by conducting detailed analyses of three prototype sites: Marion Park, Titanic Memorial Park, and a section of Fort Drive. 

Blueprint of Pennsylvania hospital heat and ventilation system from 1876

PennPraxis and the Center for Architectural Conservation have developed a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Pennsylvania Hospital, located in Philadelphia’s Center City.

A modernist house with a gravel walkway and bench in front

A PennPraxis team is developing a conservation management plan for the Miller House and Garden, an internationally renowned mid-century Modernist landmark in Columbus, Indiana. The house itself was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, with interiors designed by Alexander Girard.

Aerial view of Stamford future development

The South End Neighborhood Study (SENS) centered on a deep engagement process with residents and stakeholders to analyze the opportunities for growth, development, and heritage preservation in Stamford’s South End.

Rogers Locomotive Frame Fitting Shop and Administrative Building, 1971

The project surveyed the 108-acre Great Falls of the Passaic/Society of Useful Manufactures National Historic Landmark District for the National Park Service for the first time since the district was updated in 1986.

 Partially destroyed church with fenced off region

The Historic Sacred Places Project created the first comprehensive, field-checked inventory of Philadelphia’s 842 purpose-built historic sacred places. PennPraxis’ field survey findings were published in The Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2017 report, Philadelphia Historic Sacred Places: Their Past, Present, and Future.

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PennPraxis conducted a survey-based evaluation process for the Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places / Civic Spaces project, a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places, with North 4th LLC as project managers.

Toolkit front cover

Designed by SAYGRID

In 2018, PennPraxis led the Historic Preservation Citizen Engagement Project, which resulted in the Neighborhood Preservation Toolkit (Toolkit)--a new, free resource to build a larger, broader constituency for preservation in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia twin rowhouses that have had neighboring houses demolished

The Urban Heritage Project addresses issues at the intersection of built heritage, cultural landscape, and societal change through multi-disciplinary research and practice.

Woodland area.

Photo: Shannon Garrison

In partnership with the National Park Service, the Urban Heritage Project has worked on projects related to cultural landscapes in Washington, D.C. since the spring of 2012. This collaboration dates back to the 2012 - 2013 Parks for the People competition, organized by the Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service, when a PennDesign interdisciplinary studio was named a finalist in that competition. 

Row houses in Philadelphia

Professor Vincent Reina of PennDesign and Catherine Droser, Research Associate at PennPraxis, consulted on a project for Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), to develop a report on subsidized housing in Philadelphia.


The Oldfields estate and allée approaching the Lilly House

Not all of the Indianapolis Museum of Art's prized collections are located inside its building; in fact, some of the most famous works in the museum's collections are buildings themselves.

House in Chestnut Hill.

Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill, late afternoon, flickr photo by George Berstein

Philadelphia is known as a city of neighborhoods. So how do we help these areas of the City preserve their unique qualities? PennPraxis’ recent work with the Chestnut Hill Conservancy is a demonstration of how this can happen.

Innovation through the centuries. Pennovation Works

PennPraxis is engaged with the University of Pennsylvania Facilities and Real Estate Services to deliver a historical research and interpretation strategy for the Pennovation Works campus. Pennovation Works is Penn’s new hub for research and innovation, located in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Grays Ferry.

Nyamata Church

Nyamata Church. Photo by Randall Mason.

Conservation of Rwanda’s national genocide memorials grows with urgency each passing year.  Deterioration of buildings, sites, and artifacts threaten the ability of Rwandans to mourn, commemorate and interpret the deeply meaningful and troubling events surrounding the 1994 genocide.

Arts Building and Cloister at Nakashima house.

Arts Building and Cloister. Photo Credit: Architectural Conservation Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania

PennPraxis was awarded a grant from the Getty Foundation to develop a conservation management plan for The George Nakashima House and Studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania. 

Old factory with trees growing around.

National Portland Cement Complex. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Preston Hull

The value of Lehigh Valley is visualized across its industrial landscapes where the architectural remains of quarries, kilns and mills from the last two centuries are part of the history of the nation’s great industrial era.

Dilworth Plaza.
Dilworth Plaza. Credit: David Swift via Flickr

The constantly shifting concept of “public good” poses a challenge to designers, stewards and managers of public space, as well as to politicians, elected officials, community leaders and citizens.

A work of art displayed on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

In fall 2008, the William Penn Foundation commissioned PennPraxis to study public art in Philadelphia with an aim of better understanding how the city currently supports public art and where gaps in programs exist.