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Fitch Colloquium

Named for the founder of formal preservation education at Columbia University and in the United States, the James Marston Fitch Colloquium became an annual event in 2000. In a day-long colloquium, students, alumni, and guests hear speakers and engage in discussion over current issues in preservation— attempting to discover and define the leading edge of the discipline. The colloquium is organized by the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP.

Atmospheric Heritage: Experimental Preservation Approaches Between Art and Science

Preserving the atmosphere is widely considered today as a civilizational imperative, and the central pillar in humanity’s ability to prevent the existential threat of climate change. Yet what is meant by the terms “preservation” or “atmosphere” in this case, and the potential opened up by bringing them into mutual proximity, is seldom seriously questioned or explored. The result is that the most outdated preservation ideas are being uncritically floated as the only solutions, such as returning the atmosphere to its “original” pre-industrial condition. If the consensus in learned preservation circles is that such returns to the “original condition” of heritage are both technically impossible, deontologically questionable, and ethically undesirable, then a serious rethinking of these terms, as well as more creative and inclusive approaches to preserving the atmosphere are sorely needed.

The 2023 Fitch Colloquium will bring prominent figures from preservation, art, architecture, science, and technology whose influential work is helping to redefine what the atmosphere is understood to be. Speakers include: Michael Morris, curator, co-creator of The World Weather Network, and Co-Director emeritus of Artangel (UK); Gisela Winckler, Lamont Research Professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Associate Director of the Geochemistry Division; Shona Illingworth, artist and Professor in Art, Film and Media at the University of Kent (UK), and co-founder of Air Space Tribunal; Giuliana Bruno, historian, Emmet Blakeney Gleason Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University and author of Atmospheres of Projection: Environmentality in Art and Screen Media (Chicago, 2022); Nerea Calvillo, architect and Associate Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick (UK) and author of Aeropolis: Queering Air in Toxic Polluted Worlds (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2023); David Gissen, author, designer, Professor of Architecture and Urban History at The New School, and author of Manhattan Atmospheres (Minnesota, 2013); Lindsey Wikstrom, architect, co-founder of Mattaforma, and author of Designing the Forest and Other Mass Timber Futures (Routledge, 2023); Mark Wasiuta, curator, co-director of Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices program at GSAPP, and co-designer of “Instructions for the Reconstitution of Historical Smog” (2011); Anna Lea Albright, Postdoctoral Researcher, Laboratory for Dynamic Meteorology, Sorbonne University (France); and others.

These speaker’s projects and research will present new insights about the cultural and physical nature of the atmosphere, offering glimpses into new artistic and scientific understandings of the atmosphere(s) and their implications for forward looking strategies for its preservation.

These implications are important for preservationists to consider: if current atmospheric preservation strategies are the outcome of finely tuned responses to existing scientific knowledge about the atmosphere, then as this knowledge evolves, preservation strategies must also evolve. The presentations and dialogues will explore potential directions for that evolution, including various experimental preservation approaches that account for the new dual understanding of the atmosphere as both a physical and a cultural phenomenon, of the atmosphere as both a gaseous suspension of dusts, and as cultural heritage. The Fitch Colloquium will therefore explore new experimental preservation approaches at the intersection of art and science, architecture and technology, the humanities and climate.

The colloquium will be divided into three panels, each exploring the relationship between current and future experimental approaches to the preservation of atmospheric heritage. The presentations will look forward to the future as well as back to the past. They will explore the rich history that current approaches have within the discipline of preservation. These vary in scale from the planetary to the microscopic, including the protection of the night sky against artificial light pollution, of daytime atmospheric long-range visibility against the haze of pollution, of mid-range viewsheds against visual encroachments, of indoor museum atmospheres that protect art collections, to encapsulated inert atmospheres to protect fragile heritage objects. Current preservation approaches rest on decades of scientific research, advanced technologies, as well as community engaged advocacy work leading to contemporary regulatory policies. The colloquium will explore how current approaches and policies might evolve in light of the recent contributions of artists, architects, curators, climate scientists and technologists.

The 2023 Fitch Colloquium is organized by Jorge Otero-Pailos, Professor and Director of the Historic Preservation Program, GSAPP, Columbia University.

Preservation in China’s Future


The 2022 Fitch Colloquium critically examined how Chinese architects are engaging with preservation to imagine new forms of creativity and cultural relevance. The event was organized by the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Speakers included DONG Gong (Vector Architects), Wang Hui (URBANUS Architecture & Design), Zhang Ke (ZAO/standardarchitecture 标准营造), Xu Tiantian (DnA_Design and Architecture), Lu Wenyu (Amateur Architecture Studio), PEI Weiyi Chloe (Tsinghua Heritage Institute for Digitization), Philip F. Yuan (CAUP Tongii University, Archi-union Architects).

Discussions were moderated by Martino Stierli and Jorge Otero-Pailos.


Thursday, March 3rd from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM, New York EST / Friday, March 4th from 7:00 AM-9:00 AM China Standard Time

6:00 PM
Welcome and introduction by Jorge Otero-Pailos

6:30 PM Introduction to the first panel by Martino Stierli

6:35 PM
Presentations by Zhang Ke, XU Tiantian, and Philip F. Yuan

7:30 PM
Discussion among panel participants moderated by Martino Stierli

7:55 PM
Closing Remarks

Friday, March 4, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, New York EST
(Friday, March 4, 10:00 PM-1:00 AM China Standard Time)

9:00 AM
Welcome and introduction to the second panel by Jorge Otero-Pailos

9:20 AM
Presentations by Dong Gong, Wang Hui, Lu Wenyu, and Pei Weiyi Chloe

10:50 AM
Discussion among panel participants moderated by Jorge Otero-Pailos

11:55 AM – 12:00 PM
Closing Remarks

Preservation in China’s Future Panel 1
  • Introduction by Jorge Otero Pailos
  • Panel Introduction by Martino Stierli and presentations by:
    • Zhang Ke
    • XU Tiantian
    • Philip F. Yuan
  • Discussion moderated by Martino Stierli
  • Closing Remarks

The Art of Preservation


The 2021 Fitch Colloquium The Art of Preservation: Engaging and Amplifying Underrepresented Heritage, co-sponsored by the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University’s GSAPP and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, explored this intersection of art and preservation. The symposium convened BIPOC artists who integrate heritage – and all its sociopolitical implications today – into their works.

Speakers included Ifa Bayeza, Nona Faustine, Joel Garcia, David Hartt, Monèt Noelle Marshall, Karyn Olivier, Ada Pinkston, Paul Rucker, and Jenenne Whitfield.

Discussions were moderated by Marisa Brown, Justin Garrett Moore, and Brent Leggs.


12:00-12:15 PM Welcome & Introduction
Remarks by Jorge Otero-Pailos and Katherine Malone-France

12:15-1:45 pm Panel 1: Reclaiming
Introduction: Katherine Malone-France
Moderator: Brent Leggs
Panelists: Karyn Olivier, Monet Noelle Marshall, Ada Pinkston

This panel brings together artists whose projects have worked to reclaim existing spaces, previously preserved and imagined to be “authentic” sites of the past (historic homes, plantations, and public monuments), to highlight or re-insert institutionally marginalized narratives. Through their practices, these artists challenge the current dominant interpretative structures that privilege white histories and perspectives, instead honoring aspects of BIPOC presence, contributions, and perseverance at these sites.

2:00-3:30 pm Panel 2: Materializing

Introduction: Anna Gasha
Moderator: Justin Garret Moore
Panelists: Paul Rucker, Nona Faustine, David Hartt

This session will focus on how artists have given form to BIPOC histories through the cultural landscape writ large, where connections to the past have been built over and, as a result, are less overt. These artists reimagine and materialize their visions to resurface connections of present-day urban landscapes, everyday buildings, and streetscapes to articulate the connection between the past and ongoing issues facing communities of color today. Together, they illustrate the importance of and opportunities to recount and uplift BIPOC narratives, even when there are minimal physical remnants of those histories.

3:45-5:15pm Panel 3: Connecting

Introduction: Cole Akers
Moderator: Marisa Brown
Panelists: Joel Garcia, Ifa Bayeza, Jenenne Whitfield (Heidelberg Project)

While all art has and depends on an audience, just as all preservation projects design around stakeholders, the artists in this session place interacting with and providing opportunities for local communities of color at the forefront of their work. Art at historically charged sites thus work as a vehicle to encourage dialogue and collective action among and within these communities, in order to envision new futures while learning from the past.



Can digital technologies for capturing and reproducing reality deepen our understanding and enrich our experience of built heritage? Can these new technologies not only improve the daily practice of preservation but effectively inform a new paradigm of cultural heritage? The 2019 Fitch Colloquium explored the future of Historic Preservation through the lens of experimental approaches to digital documentation, analysis, interpretation, archiving, sharing, visualization and re-materialization of data. The symposium will examine cutting-edge processes involving the development and application of digital tools to projects of all scales, including high-resolution 3D scanning, gaming, computer-based visual pattern recognition, blockchain encryption, behavioral geo-tracking or interactive projection mapping among others. Internationally recognized experts from a varied range of disciplines will unpack their work and speculate on the conceptual changes that might emerge in response to the current upheaval in technology.

Speakers included David Gissen, Dr. Pilar Bosch Roig, Dr. Frédéric Kaplan, Dr. Hannah Lewi, Ian Bogost, Carlos Bayod, Arnaud Baernhoft, Carlos Benaïm, Yves Ubelmann, Emily L. Spratt, Chance Coughenour, Farzin Lotfi-Jam, and Caitlin Blanchfield.

Discussion were moderated by Erica Avrami, David Benjamin, and Jorge Otero-Pailos.

Panel 1: Record
  • Yves Ublemann
  • David Gissen
  • Hannah Lewi
  • Anaïs Aguerre
  • Moderated by Erica Avrami

Ex-Situ: On Moving Monuments


The act of moving historical buildings to new locations has been part and parcel of modern preservation practice since its origins in the early 19th century when fragments of some of the great monuments of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt were relocated to Europe. Although the practice never quite stopped, 20th-century preservationists demoted it to a preservation solution of last resort. Today, various external pressures, from rising sea levels to economic pressure, are making preservationists reconsider the practice of ex-situ preservation.

As a result, a new critical engagement with preservation’s colonial history is emerging. Core concepts, such as the primacy of context, are being reconsidered. Fundamental practices such as the archiving of architectural fragments are being redefined, and new technologies are being developed. The 2017 Fitch Colloquium examines these and other emerging philosophical, social, technical and environmental questions raised by moving buildings.

Speakers included Can Bilsel, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor ‘16 MSCCCP, Mary Ellen Carroll, Mari Lending, Alexander Levi, Krister Lindstedt, Anthony Mazzo, Ryan Mendoza, Janet Parks ‘76 GSAS, Amanda Schachter '93 CC, Constance S. Silver '88 MSHP, Dean Sully, and Mabel O. Wilson '91 M.Arch.

Discussions were moderated by Erica Avrami, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Andrew Dolkart.

Download the program schedule.

Panel 1: Urban Moves
  • Tony Mazzo
  • Krister Lindstedt
  • Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi
  • Mary Ellen Carroll
  • Moderated by Erica Avrami

Preservation and War


To what degree, we may ask, is preservation thinkable outside of militarization, and its prewar—war—postwar continuum? What is the range of acceptable preservation actions and non-actions in the face of today’s wars, when spectacles are made of the dynamiting of monuments, and the killing of preservationists? The 2016 Fitch Colloquium brings together some of the world’s leading experts in the spirit of dialogue and common pursuit of answers to these urgent questions.

Speakers included Tim Winter, Laurie Rush, Leila A. Amineddoleh, Lucia Allais, David Gissen, Julián Esteban-Chapapría, Zaki Aslan, Laura Kurgan, Zainab Bahrani, Nikolaus Hirsch, Mark Jarzombek, Rodney Harrison, Azra Akšamija, Clive Van Den Berg.

Amale Andraos provided the introduction and discussions were moderated by Jorge Otero-Pailos, Erica Avrami, William Raynolds, and Rosalind C. Morris.

Panel 1: Pre War
  • Introduction by Jorge Otero-Pailos
  • Tim Winter
  • Laurie Rush
  • Leila A. Amineddoleh
  • Lucia Allais
  • David Gissen
  • Moderated by Erica Avrami


In celebration of its 50th anniversary, GSAPP’s Historic Preservation program convened extraordinary figures to re-imagine the future of preservation. The works of Michèle Pierre Louis, Tim McClimon, Adam Lowe, John Ochsendorf, Ilaria Cavaggioni, Gunny Harboe, and Peter Mullan challenge us to rethink our assumptions about what preservation is and can do. Their unique perspectives on preservation are informed by their deep knowledge and engagement with fields as diverse as politics, finance, art, engineering, design, planning and information technology. Each speaker will explore one idea, a new and unexpected way in which preservation may engage with the urgent challenges of our time, from social inequity to climate change, from the digital revolution to the limits of government. Collectively, they offered a view of preservation’s emerging potential.

  • Ilaria Cavaggioni
  • Gunny Harboe
  • Adam Lowe
  • Tim McClimon
  • Peter Mullan
  • John Ochsendorf
  • Michèle Pierre-Louis