Philadelphia University’s Historic Preservation program focuses upon the relationship between rehabilitation of historic buildings and sustainability. Students learn to determine historic significance of structures, viewed not as disembodied artifacts but as possibilities for adaptive reuse and retrofitting, as models of energy efficiency, and as part of the cultural fabric of a community. From streets and neighborhoods to entire cities, both locally and internationally, historic preservation is an innovative practice that is essential to the development of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable urban spaces.
Our faculty of practicing professionals offers a broad range of experience, blending traditional methods with emerging technologies. Students learn collaboratively in interdisciplinary studios. With industry partnerships, field work at local historic sites and districts, and study abroad opportunities in Rome, the program offers invaluable real-world experience. Our campus is located just minutes from downtown Philadelphia, whose neighborhoods are rich with landmarks and historic structures. Our curriculum meets the standards set by the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE). Graduates are well-prepared for careers in documentation, research and more. Many have been accepted and received funding to pursue graduate degrees at premier historic preservation programs. Our 4+1 program gives graduates the opportunity to combine their preservation studies with a M.S. in Geodesign, Sustainable Design or Construction Management with one additional year of study.
Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse
For their senior capstone studio, Historic Preservation students are working as integral members of a collaborative team developing plans to adaptively reuse the historic Our Lady of Mount Carmel School as a theatrical design center. The proposed new program for this South Philadelphia landmark was spearheaded by Arts in Sacred Places, a program sponsored by Partners for Sacred Places, a national organization headquartered in Philadelphia. The mission of Partners for Sacred Places is to support the preservation of older and historic sacred places through their continued, active use.
During a full-day design charette attended by all stakeholders, students engaged directly with members of the theater company, lighting and costume designers, as well as video and sound engineers to understand how they work, the type of spaces they need, and how they see the building functioning in the near and distant future as the theatrical design center becomes an established part of the community. Students produced complete floor plans of the existing structure and presented their considerable research on the building’s history; their contributions served as the basis for the team’s discussions. The charette is informing the students’ final design solutions, which they will present to Partners for Sacred Places. Their challenge is to design spaces that serve the new use of the building while also preserving its distinctive, historically defining features.
In this course students learn the fundamentals of HABS documentation methods for the production of archival records of historic structures and places, utilizing the 4”x 5” large-format camera.
Through field work and seminars, students survey, sketch, draft, research, and annotate comprehensive, technically proficient drawings that represent the salient aspects of historic structures, complexes and sites in accordance with HABS standards.