Historic Building Conservation Dissertation Sample

A selection of some of the best dissertations from past MSc Architectural Conservation students can be found in the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA), filed under the category ‘Edinburgh College of Art thesis and dissertation collection’.

The MSc dissertation is written over a period of three months under thesupervision of an assigned academic within the chosen field of study.

2009

Amy Hickman, Waterfront Regeneration in the Historic Port of Leith: the Challenges of Maintaining Authenticity on an Urban Scale

2010

Stuart West, Is Scotland Planning to preserve the world’s heritage? A case-study in the heart of neolithic Orkney
Michael MacDonagh, Finding New Uses for Irish Demesnes: Authenticity and Integrity Issues

2011

Angeliki Vastaki, Neoclassical Residences in Athens: Why a burden for the owners?
Tarek Teba, Conservation of stone-roofs: Challenges and the Effect of New Techniques
Caroline Engel, The Murals of Belfast: Politics and Conservation

2012

Yuk Hong Ian Tan, Bridges to Our Heritage: The Significance of Five Historic Bridges over Singapore River
Thomas Hunter, Shored Against Our Ruin: Experiential Themes in the Conservation of the Whaling Industry

2013

Lucy O’Connor, A study of the thermal improvement methods employed on traditional building fabric: Specific to traditional Scottish stone walls and slate roofs
Gul Akturk, The Conservation of Ottoman Era Neighbourhoods in Istanbul: A Case Study of Arnavutköy, Besiktas
Anna Wojtun, Envisaging Nowy Targ Square: rehabilitation challenges of postwar housing within historic contexts
Mary Ellen Witford, Challenges in North Carolina Preservation Policy: Preventing Demolition of the State’s Built Heritage
Patricia Lipton, Playing the Devil’s Advocate: Historic Places Of Worship And Preservation Policies In England, Scotland, And The United States
Nikolia-Sotiria Kartalou, The Conservation Challenges of Regenerating An Urban Industrial Zone: Exploring The Design Options

2014

Lilian Tuohy Main, Temporary Use: A Potential Strategy for Historic Buildings At Risk
Georgina Ritchie, Monumental Misjudgements? Early Conservative Interventions and their Impact on Orcadian Neolithic Sites
Martha Vail, Waste Management and Sites of Historic/Architectural Significance: A Conservation Perspective
Kristina Rimkute, Soviet Mass-Housing In Vilnius: Exploring The Consequences Of The 1955 Housing Reform And The Rebellion Against Architectural Homogenisation

Overview

This course is fully recognised by The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC). The course provides both a thorough understanding of architectural heritage and the skills required to contribute to the preservation and development of historic sites. Benefiting from its location in the historic city of Canterbury, the programme combines the study of conservation theory and philosophy with an exploration of the technical aspects of repair and reconstruction. The city’s stunning cathedral provides students with an education resource, giving them the opportunity to learn from the conservation of a World Heritage Site.

Open to students and professionals with an interest in architectural heritage, the course represents an ideal gateway to a career in demanding professional fields, such as conservation-oriented architectural practice, conservation consultancy and heritage management. As the future leaders in these fields, the course’s graduates are expected to play a central role in disciplines that lie at the centre of the current economic, environmental and social agendas.

This programme is offered jointly within two faculties, Humanities and Sciences.

About Kent School of Architecture

Research at Kent School of Architecture achieves excellence in both the history and theory of architecture and in sustainable urban, peri-urban and environmental design. School staff have design expertise and specialist knowledge; they are at the forefront of current architectural issues, including sustainability, technology, professional practice and research. Our staff are active at academic and professional conferences, both nationally and internationally, and appear and publish in local and national media. The School promotes innovative and interdisciplinary research, emphasising sustainable design.

Much of the project work involved in the Kent School of Architecture is located on 'live' sites in the local region, using real clients and engaging challenging issues. Students in all stages of the school have been introduced to real urban and architectural design challenges in Lille, Margate, Folkestone, Dover, Rye, Chatham and, of course, Canterbury. Much of this work involves liaising with external bodies, such as architects, planners, council and development groups.

For up-to-date news, please visit our Architectural Conservation blog.

Additional costs

As part of the module AR84 - Intervention, students on the course will need to visit the project site at least two times. Travel expenses will be approximately £70.00 per student for two site visits.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Architecture was ranked 8th for research intensity and 8th for research output in the UK.

An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 88% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international quality.

Course structure

The MSc is composed of four taught modules (two modules per term full-time, one module per term part-time) and a dissertation on the topic of your own choice. 

The programme has a varied curriculum which reflects the multidisciplinary nature of conservation. The autumn term cultivates a critical understanding of historic buildings and provides an introduction to conservation philosophy and policy. The acquisition of a strong theoretical background is the basis for the study of practical techniques for the survey and preservation of architectural heritage.

Case studies and workshops carried out in collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral introduce you to the properties of historic building materials and the techniques employed in the repair of historic buildings. This aspect of the programme benefits from cutting-edge survey equipment and the use of conservation laboratories. A conservation project offers you the opportunity to design an intervention to an existing historic site in the historic centre of Canterbury. The dissertation that concludes the programme invites you to study an aspect of the conservation cycle of your choice, employing a high standard of scholarship.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may includeCredits
AR841 - Structural Appraisal of Historic Buildings

This module explores the structural behaviour of buildings, and examines their response to environmental phenomena. It helps the students to analyse the causes and patterns of damage in a wide range of structures and cultivates a critical understanding of the techniques employed in the repair and strengthening of historic buildings. A combination of lectures and laboratory analysis will help the students to develop an advanced understanding of the properties of building materials and their decay. The module will include lectures on materials such as stone, brick, mortar, timber, iron and concrete. Three of these lectures will be delivered by the conservators of Canterbury cathedral at the Cathedral's conservation workshop. This will constitute an opportunity to observe the methods employed in the conservation of Canterbury cathedral, examining the practical application of a wide range of preservation techniques. The course’s assignment, a structural report on a historic structure in Kent will provide students with an opportunity to test the skills and knowledge gained in the lectures, articulating their findings using the relevant presentation skills.

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AR842 - The Legislative Framework

This module explores the policies and legislation that guide the preservation of historic sites, and the modern administrative framework of conservation. Focusing on the UK heritage protection and planning systems, the module's lectures and seminars will examine various kinds of statutory designation. The aim is to provide a thorough examination of the notions of the listed building, the scheduled archaeological site, the conservation area and the registered landscape. Particular emphasis will be put on the role of conservation in the National Planning Policy Framework and on the mechanisms through which the development of historic sites is authorised. This will involve an investigation of the challenges associated with planning permissions, and listed building consent. The module will offer the opportunity to explore the systems through which conservation is financed and managed. Guest speakers will introduce the students to the available grants that assist building conservation and area regeneration. The module will also familiarise the students with procurement strategies, as well as with conservation contracts, methods of valuation, and cost planning.

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AR843 - Intervention at Historic Buildings

This module explores the various methods of promoting beneficial change to historic buildings. A conservation project that will be supervised on a weekly basis offers the opportunity to design an intervention to a historic site. The project will not only focus on one historic building but it will offer the opportunity to investigate the role of conservation in the broader urban environment. In parallel to this project, a series of lectures will investigate various stages in the delivery of conservation projects, examining the methods of survey, appraisal, repair, strengthening, adaptation, extension, and monitoring of historic buildings and surrounding urban spaces. One of these lectures will be delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, and will give students the opportunity to observe the ongoing conservation of the monument guided by one of its chief conservators. During the course, special emphasis will be put on issues related with the preservation and management of historic cities. Encouraging the students to experiment with all the phases of a conservation project, this module provides a synthesis of theory and practice, and promotes the development of a holistic approach to architectural conservation.

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AR844 - Conservation Principles

This module introduces the students to the research in architectural history and to the study of conservation philosophy that underpins past and present attitudes to architectural heritage.

The introductory lectures will provide an opportunity to investigate the development of architectural form from Antiquity to the 20th century, focusing on the European traditions. They will also introduce the students to the various approaches to the research and documentation of historic buildings. Cultivating a multifaceted understanding of architectural heritage while offering access to the relevant research methodologies, the module provides the expertise necessary to evaluate historic buildings and to decide what should and could be conserved and why. As well as an introduction to architectural history, lectures and seminars will investigate the field of conservation philosophy. This part of the module will examine the evolution of the attitudes to architectural heritage from the 19th to the 21st century. Special emphasis will be put on the theoretical problems of maintenance, restoration, and the way in which 20th-century international charters addressed these problems. Examining a wide range of case-studies, the module will also investigate various theoretical approaches to the adaptation of new buildings to the historic environment.

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AR898 - Dissertation: MSc in Architectural Conservation

The dissertation will be a conservation project including fieldwork and scholarly research. It will be based on an existing historic building that will be visited during the Summer Term. Students will work in one or more groups, but each one will be asked to specify the nature of her/his contribution to the team's work from the outset. Each student will focus on one or more areas that reflect her/his background and interests. What follows is an indicative list of the areas that may be chosen and the corresponding 'dissertation product’ (in parentheses):

- Historical Research and Documentation (Survey)

- Graphic Recording and Structural Survey (Structural Report)

- Analysis and Testing of Building Materials (Structural Report)

- Conservation Theory Issues (Theoretical dissertation)

- Preparation of a Conservation Plan (Theoretical dissertation)

- Repair and Structural Intervention (Conservation Project)

- Reflection on a bid for the funding of a conservation project (Theoretical dissertation)

The project is intended to contribute to the preservation of the historic buildings chosen every year and will be presented by the student group(s) to the local community. Following the end of the summer term, the students will work individually on the topics they have chosen. The product varies according to the student orientation. Students that have chosen theoretical topics will produce a document 15,000 words long (including footnotes and bibliography). As shown above, ‘Theoretical dissertations’ may draw their topics from the fields of conservation history, theory, legislation, and management. Alternatively they can propose critical studies of conservation projects. Practice-oriented students will submit 7,500-word structural reports accompanied by original drawings, or design proposals accompanied by a 4,000 essay explaining the design’s rationale and objectives. The dissertations will be submitted in September, after the completion of the taught course (stage 1).

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is mostly through coursework, with essays, reports, projects and the dissertation.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • ensure you are equipped with academic, professional, and personal skills and qualities that enable you to make a positive contribution related to the preservation of historic buildings.
  • cultivate an appreciation of the different values that people can attach to historic buildings and places.
  • promote an awareness of traditional building crafts as a valuable cultural resource.
  • develop a thorough understanding of the processes that maintain and enhance historic places and the activities that change them.
  • develop knowledge of the theoretical, historical, and professional context of architectural conservation.
  • promote multidisciplinary collaboration and interaction with a wide range of professional bodies and individuals who have a role to play in the development of the built environment.
  • ensure graduates develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to provide informed and specialist advice and to cultivate an awareness of their responsibility as consultants in the field of architectural conservation.
  • understand the role that architectural conservation has to play as part of the modern ecological agenda.
  • encourage the observation of the historic environment as a whole and its use as an educational resource.
  • provide teaching informed by research and scholarship.
  • develop an understanding of how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research.
  • enable you to develop strategies for self-improvement and commitment to research and learning.
  • build on close ties within Europe and elsewhere, reflecting Kent’s position as the UK’s European university.
  • promote the understanding and preservation of local and national architectural heritage.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain:

  • An understanding of the legislation and policy related to the protection and conservation of historic buildings and sites at local, national, and international level.
  • Awareness of the wider context of conservation, preparing students to interact effectively with all bodies and individuals in this field.
  • A critical awareness of the social, cultural, political, aesthetic, economic, and ecological values that underpin conservation policy and practice.
  • An informed knowledge of the historic development of architectural forms, enabling to analyse historic monuments in stylistic, constructional, contextual, and cultural.
  • An understanding of research methodologies and the ability to interpret and evaluate archival material.
  • Knowledge of the documentation and recording methodologies employed to capture the significance of historic buildings and sites and assess the impact of development proposals on them.
  • An understanding of the causes and patterns of damage in a wide range of structures and an awareness of the technology employed in the repair and strengthening of historic buildings.
  • An understanding of traditional design and construction principles sufficient to undertake the restoration of a historic building in a sympathetic manner.
  • Understanding of the contractual and administrative aspects of conservation projects.

Intellectual skills

You gain the ability to:

  • Evaluate the historical and cultural meaning and significance of historic buildings and settings, as a basis of conservation strategies. 
  • Grasp the value of monuments as elements of a broader context, which may include other buildings, gardens or landscapes.
  • Analyse and evaluate the quality of design, existing and proposed, of buildings and areas, and to present findings in a way accessible to both professional and lay audiences.
  • Identify why conservation is appropriate, what should be conserved and how this might be done.
  • Assess and monitor the condition of buildings, diagnose structural defects and make proposals for their repair, maintenance, and enhancement.
  • Advise on new and developing techniques in conservation and their practical implications.
  • Question and evaluate critically past and current conservation methods and tools.
  • Interpret conservation laws and policies and to formulate conservation proposals consistent with them.

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills:

  • Ability to inspect, record, and make reports intelligible to non-specialist readers of monuments, ensembles, or sites, illustrated by graphic means such as sketches and photographs.
  • Competence in design and presentation. Ability to use visual, verbal and written communication and appropriate media to present maintenance strategies to professional and general audiences.
  • Graphic presentation skills employed in the assessment of the significance of historic buildings, their structural appraisal and the development of conservation strategies.
  • Negotiation skills and professional attitude in interacting with all groups and individuals with an interest in the historic environment.
  • Ability to promote or generate investment in the historic environment.
  • Ability to provide advice and guidance on current legislation and government policies affecting the preservation of the historic environment.
  • Research skills involving the use of a range of information sources.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • Ability to prepare and manage well-supported critical analyses based on theory and empirical evidence.
  • To exercise initiative in either carrying out or commissioning research and analysis.
  • Ability to independently define and appraise ideas and make reasoned judgements.
  • Demonstrate an ability to evaluate assumptions, arguments and research methodologies, to develop critiques of them and to explore alternative strategies.
  • Ability to work in multi-disciplinary groups resolving potential conflicts, and recognising when advice should be sought from experts in other fields.
  • Ability to systematically plan, carry through, and manage a project in a given time.
  • Ability to be self-critical about own work and constructive in how to address and progress it.
  • To learn to operate within a code of professional conduct, recognising responsibilities and obligations towards society, the profession and the environment.

Careers

Our Master’s programmes have been devised to enhance your prospects in a competitive world. Professionals in the architectural, planning, environmental design and conservation fields who develop higher-level skills, accredited by relevant bodies, will find themselves well-placed to progress in their field. Our students have gone on to work for major public agencies and universities, as well as leading practitioners in the private sector.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School of Architecture studios include a dedicated computing suite with a range of environmental construction software, and a new digital crit studio. There is a fully equipped architectural model-making workshop for constructing models and large-scale prototypes.

Professional links

The School has excellent contacts with businesses and culture in the local area, including regional organisations such as the Kent Architecture Centre, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Kent County Council and Kent Design Initiative. The Sustainable Communities Plan is particularly strong in south-east England, making the region the ideal place in which to debate innovative solutions to architectural issues.

Kent also has excellent links with schools of architecture in Lille, Bruges, Rome, Bauhaus-Dessau, Beijing and, in the USA, Virginia and California.

Academic study is complemented by a mentoring scheme organised in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and involving students in events with local practices.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Architectural Research Quarterly; The Architectural Review; Building and Environment; The Journal of Architecture; and The World of Interiors.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A first or 2.1 in architecture or a related discipline (eg, engineering, surveying, planning, geography, archaeology, art history, heritage management). Applicants may be required to attend an interview or to submit a portfolio showing aptitude for the subject and appropriate ability.

Applicants who are unable to attend an interview will be asked to send a portfolio or sample of their written work.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Research centres

KSA has two research centres: the Centre for Research in European Architecture (CREAte), which focuses on research in architectural humanities and design, and the Centre for Architecture and Sustainable Environment (CASE), which promotes research in the field of sustainable architecture.

CREAte

The Centre provides a focus for research in architecture in the European context. Its emphasis is on the role and contribution of humanities to architecture and urban design in the context of urban and regional regeneration, nationally and internationally.

CREAte provides a platform for evening lectures by contemporary architects and scholars; hosting debates and events that are at the heart of architectural agenda of today.

The Centre builds upon its staff specialisms, interests and skills in the following areas: regional studies, contemporary architectural and urban theory and design, architectural history and theory (ranging from antiquity to contemporary European cities), sustainability, European topographies (landscape, urban, suburban and metropolitan) etc. Staff participate in the activities of AHRA – Architecture Humanities Research Association and are internationally published authors.

CASE

The Centre promotes research in the field of sustainable environment regionally, nationally and internationally.

Its research focus encompasses different aspects and scales of the sustainable built environment from the individual building to the urban block, promoting the wider environmental agenda and keeping the School at the forefront of research and development in the field. CASE also pursues research into the historical and cultural dimension of environmental design to foster links between the sciences, arts and humanities. There is a strong interest in understanding the environmental behaviour of historic buildings and the strategies originally deployed to manage the internal environment.

The Centre has already secured funding from various sources. This includes three EPSRC projects on climate change weather data for a sustainable built environment, sustainability of airport terminal buildings and design interventions in the public realm for affecting human behaviour, and two TSB-funded projects on Building Performance Evaluation. CASE is also involved with the recent EPSRC large-scale network on Digital Economy Communities and Culture.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor Gerry Adler: Deputy Head of School; Programme Director: MA Architecture and Urban Design (Canterbury and Paris)

Twentieth-century architectural history and theory, in particular in Great Britain and Germany; Heinrich Tessenow; architecture in its wider cultural and philosophical contexts; the place of the ruin in the modern architectural imagination. 

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Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin: Senior Lecturer in Cultural Context

Nineteenth and early-20th century English architecture and, in particular, the work of A W N Pugin.

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Dr Luciano Cardellicchio: Lecturer in Design and Technology & Environment

The relationship between form and construction; the connection among technical details, urban shape and construction tradition in contemporary architecture in Europe and modern architecture in Italy.

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Professor Gordana Fontana-Giusti: Professor of Architecture and Urban Regeneration

Contemporary architectural and urban theory, in particular philosophy and its relation to architecture; perspective and its relation to architecture and the city; representation, conceptual art and the relationship between the arts and architecture; regeneration, public spaces and sustainable urban design; urban landscapes, cities and water.

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Dr Manolo Guerci: Senior Lecturer in Cultural Context and Design; Director of Graduate Studies

Secular architecture, particularly domestic, ranging from Early-Modern European palaces with emphasis on connections between Italy, France and Britain in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, to post-war social housing estates; relations between European Modernism and traditional Japanese architecture; conservation of historic buildings, particularly 17th-century construction techniques in Rome.

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Dr David Haney: Senior Lecturer in Cultural Context and Design; Director CREAte Research Centre

Relationship between landscape and architecture considered from both professional and cultural perspectives; history of modern architecture and landscape; history of ‘green’ or ecological design; ecological concepts in German modernism.

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Dr Nikolaos Karydis: Lecturer; Programme Director, Architectural Conservation MSc

Development of construction technology and the design aspect of city making, with specific focus on the European traditions; urban development in Early Modern Rome and the ways in which specific building projects of the 16th and the 17th centuries conditioned urban renewal.

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Professor Marialena Nikolopoulou: Professor of Sustainable Architecture; Programme Director, Architecture and Sustainable Environments MSc; Director of CASE Research Centre

Comfort of complex environments; urban microclimate; occupant perception and use of space; sustainable design and rational use of energy in the built environment.

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Dr Giridharan Renganathan: Lecturer in Sustainable Architecture

Urban morphology and climatology (environmental design), with specific interest in the urban heat island (UHI) effect; outdoor thermal comfort; summer time over heating in buildings; passive ventilation strategies; use of cool materials.

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Michael Richards: Senior Lecturer in Design; Programme Director, MArch

Design studio pedagogy in the area of ethics; the variances between the physical and fictional relative locations of ‘place’ in cinema; the implications for an understanding of contemporary cities.

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Dr Richard Watkins: Lecturer in Sustainable Architecture

Urban microclimate and the urban heat island, refrigeration, air movement and air quality; daylighting; climate change; future weather data; building performance modelling and measurement.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Architectural Conservation - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EUOverseas
Full-time£7300£15200
Part-time£3650£7600

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

Additional costs

As part of the module AR84 - Intervention, students on the course will need to visit the project site at least two times. Travel expenses will be approximately £70.00 per student for two site visits.

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

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