Theory + Practice of Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation

Fall 2012

Jorge Otero-Pailos, instructor

This lecture course was an introduction to historic preservation theory and practice, as it developed in the West, from the Enlightenment to the present moment of globalization. We focused on how preservation theories and experimental practices helped to redefine and advance new conceptions of architecture, cities and landscapes. Historic preservation is often described as a young discipline, on account of the fact that most of its current institutions and legal frameworks were created in the late twentieth century. But many of the foundational ideas and practices that gave rise to contemporary historic preservation have much deeper historical roots. For instance, our contemporary notion of world heritage can be traced back to the dawn of international law in the mid eighteenth century. The present practice of maintaining registries of listed monuments also has historic precedents in sixteenth century Rome. We touched upon the histories of these and other theories and practices, identifying key figures, texts and projects. We also examined the birth and legacy of different schools of historic preservation. We focused on understanding the relationship between historic preservation and the social, political and economic context in which it acquired currency and value. Finally, we asked questions about how theory and practice relate to one another, and how a solid grasp of the discipline’s history can help us articulate new ways of thinking and doing historic preservation.