Teaching Philosophy Courses Taught

Historic Preservation education, as I see I, must be practice based. Graduates with an historic preservation degree must be prepared to “hit the ground running” when they begin their first jobs.

To do that, their education must strike a careful balance between theory and practice. Theory gives students a basis for understanding why we do what we do—and what we can and can’t do. Practice fosters the skills that are necessary for the day to day work of preservation.

For most, if not all, preservationists the desire to conserve our heritage is a calling. Preservationists do what they do because the care about the contribution of heritage resources to who we are as a country and a people, whether it is great architecture or landscapes that touch on being artworks to more modest places and buildings that recall the waves of immigrants that have peopled this country over the last 400 years—and the sites that are sacred to those who were here before even the early Spanish, French, and English explorers.

An ongoing large scale challenge in this field is the need to update preservation education and practice to integrate sustainability and livability. Historic preservation should be an integral part of both these movements.

In sustainability, rehabilitating existing buildings, especially pre-1930s buildings that were built before modern HVAC systems, creates far smaller carbon footprints then constructing new ones, even if they are LEED certified. As for livable cities, the most successful livable cities world-wide have all integrated the protection of heritage resources and historic neighborhoods into their plans, not out of nostalgia but because they are an important element in what makes people see a city as livable.

Producing graduates who will bring these points of view into their jobs and thereby widen the focus of the field is one of the main goals of my pedagogical approach.

Another is to foster an understanding of civics. Preservation exists and works within a tangle of local, state, and federal laws. It exists in a tension with the Bill of Rights. Graduates will deal with questions of legality throughout their careers. To be able to explain why what we do is legal they need a deep understanding of the role of federal, state and local government authority, of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments, and of the cases, including those by the Supreme Court, which both constrain and allow historic preservation to exist.

Perhaps the most important quality, however, is to foster critical thinking. I often tell my students that it will not affect their grade if they disagree with me on an exam, provided they explain their reasoning and back it. I also tell them that, even if they agree with me, they also have to explain their reasoning and back it up. The point is they need to make up their own minds as to what they believe and they need to do it by examining the various points of view on a topic and deciding for themselves, based on that informed reasoning process. I am happy when my students agree with me but I am well aware that I do not have all the answers.

Preservation History and Theory
Preservation Law and Policy
Architecture and Urban Form in the United States
Preservation Colloquium