Historic Building Conservation Dissertation Proposal

Protecting the built heritage and conserving the local traditional and cultural values of communities for future generations present a real challenge for developers, architects, and professional education programs which are responsible for preparing the courses focused on heritage conservation aspects, learning respectful aware design with cultural context, and qualified graduates in planning, design, and implementation of conservation projects.

The paper aims to propose an educational methodology for dealing with heritage conservation projects: “adaptive reuse of historic buildings” in design studios of architecture and interior design programs, by promoting a design philosophy which supports the integrated approaches of revitalizing heritage values of the traditional communities and creates new activities appropriated with: conservation principles, sense of historic buildings and its cultural context, and continuous with local communities needs. The main issue of the paper is to formulate design processes which can assist and develop students’ abilities to reconstruct and represent the heritage building’s interior within the historic context of sensitive conditions to its architecturally and historically significant features adopted with the new activities. The paper presents two examples of student’s senior project titled with “adaptive reuse of Jeddah historic houses as a tool for developing the cultural tourism” (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). By evaluating the design processes, concepts, and outcomes the paper concluded that the architectural education programs which focused on revitalization and conservation of communities’ heritage values – throughout developing student’s creative and investigative skills – can be considered as an effective approach in cultural heritage conservation projects.


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).


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Part-directed learning
- Two supervised field-study sessions (involving graphic recording, and structural survey): four hours each
Total 8 hours

- Four Tutorials: one hour each
- Two Presentations during and after the project (four hours each)
Total 12 hours

Method of assessment

Dissertation 100%
Word Count:
Theoretical Dissertation: 15,000 words
Structural Report or Survey: 7,500 words + drawings
Conservation Project: Series of Drawings + 4,000 words of explanatory text.

Preliminary reading

Subject related – bibliography to be developed by student with the assistance of relevant supervisors and module related bibliographies. What follows is an indicative list of books on dissertation writing, management, and methodology.
Biggam, J., Succeeding with your master's dissertation: a step-by-step handbook, Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2011 (available as an e-book)
Borden, I., The dissertation an architecture student's handbook, Amsterdam ; Architectural, 2006
Charles, F.W.B., Conservation of Timber Buildings, Shaftesbury: Donhead, 2003 (It includes a series of case-studies of conservation projects)
Phillips, R., The architect's plan of work: for the procurement of feasibility studies, a fully designed building project, employer's requirements or contractor's proposals, London: RIBA Enterprises, 2000
Swetnam, D., Writing your dissertation: how to plan, prepare and present successful work, Oxford : How To Books, 2004

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students will have:
- An ability to demonstrate a holistic understanding of the conservation of historic buildings, and the ways in which conservation theory informs conservation practice,
- An ability to carry out bibliographical and archival research to establish the history and significance of a heritage asset
- The ability to experiment with the use of a wide range of conservation methods and to understand the implications of their use.
- An understanding of the complete process of conservation projects, from the initial survey and the development of a brief to the actual design and its specification.

The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students will have:
- The ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary team, to share tasks equitably and to communicate with different specialists.
- The ability to carry out independent research, establishing research objectives, constructing valid research hypotheses and expressing reasoned arguments, grounded by critical reference to carefully identified existing scholarship.
- The ability to express research results in an efficient, legible way, through the development of advanced presentation skills.

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