On Wednesday, February 24, School of Architecture Rome Studies Program Director Steven Semes lectured on his latest book, The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation. The book addresses the past and future of conservation efforts, examining how preservation law has taken shape over time.
Declared one of the top titles for 2010 by Planetizen.com, Prof. Semes’ book offers a new framework for the future of preservation. Critics have declared it “required reading” for architects, planners, preservationists and the general public. Traditional Building Magazine called Semes’ book “the decade’s most important book on urban architecture.” Semes elucidates how current preservation theory has gone wrong, arguing for a reasoned approach that values visual wholeness and architectural continuity in our treasured historic zones.
Semes traces the history of preservation law, focusing on the concept of “differentiation,” which, since the 1960s, has prompted audacious contemporary additions to historical buildings and zones. He goes on to argue for a modern conservation ethic that combines head and heart. Construction should be environmentally sustainable and should accommodate the physical, social and cultural needs of the local community. Compelling and controversial, Semes book offers new hope for synthesizing new and old architecture in historic settings in a manner that is both effective and ethical.