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M.S. Historic Preservation

The M.S. in Historic Preservation Program curriculum educates students to create new, future-oriented roles for built heritage that promote inclusive and resilient communities. With a particular focus on adapting to climate change and promoting social justice, the curriculum integrates humanist, scientific, and technological approaches necessary for students to shape the future of the profession: including the reuse of buildings, the design of adaptation technologies, planning and policy innovations, social and historical research, materials science and digital computation applied to the 3D scanning, documentation, assessment, monitoring, and care of built heritage. The program frames preservation both as an experimental form of creative expression and as a critical form of collective action guided by philosophical, ethical, and critical thinking, supported by evidence of its benefits to society, and enabled by emerging technologies and policy tools. We teach preservation as a social, material, and environmental process; as a way of thinking and acting through buildings and places of cultural significance to improve the built environment and people’s quality of life. The program’s curriculum and academic activities express an ongoing commitment to anti-racist systemic change as reflected in its anti-racism statement of purpose and the 2021-2022 anti-racism task force summary report.

Founded in 1964 as the first Masters Program in Historic Preservation in the United States, the program embodies a pioneering spirit by continually questioning how the discipline actively responds to the changing social values and climate challenges associated with architectural and cultural heritage, so as to ensure that the historic built environment better serves present and future generations.

The program prepares its graduates in the theoretical and practical foundations of preservation so they can be agents of positive environmental, cultural, and social change. Students are drawn from multi-disciplinary backgrounds such as architecture, art history, history, urban planning, engineering, science, art, urban design, archeology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy and jurisprudence. Students bring to bear their respective interests on preservation. By focusing on historical, aesthetic, technological, environmental, social and political questions, the program cultivates deep engagement with the ideas and practices that constitute preservation, and the broad multi-disciplinary skill sets that it draws upon.

The program reflects a global outlook in its diverse faculty, alumni, visiting scholars, advanced researchers, as well as in the locales where students work. It emphasizes real-world engagement with buildings, sites and communities near campus and beyond. Through study and engaged research in New York and New Jersey, as well as countries such as Italy, Cuba, Ethiopia, France, Haiti, Mexico, Norway, and the United Kingdom students apply skills in the real world and co-create knowledge with multiple publics. Learning beyond the lab and classroom is likewise enhanced through faculty-led publications, studio reports, research, public lectures and events such as the annual Fitch Colloquium.


Preservation Technology Laboratory

Jorge Otero-Pailos, Director of the MS Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP introduces the School’s newly renovated laboratory.

Visit the Preservation Technology Laboratory website.

Columbia’s Historic Preservation Program provides a comprehensive foundation in the discipline through place-based studios, field work, laboratory research, lectures, and seminars. The curriculum encourages students to apply theoretical concepts, critical thinking and problem-solving in real-life contexts. With core strengths in design and technology, planning and policy, and history and theory, the curriculum mirrors the disciplines preservationists must engage and collaborate with in the professional world. The course of study provides fundamental knowledge of the spectrum of the discipline, and then affords each student the opportunity to develop an area of deep focus through a one year thesis.

The centerpiece of the curriculum is a three-semester studio sequence, supported by core coursework. These interdisciplinary and cross-cultural learning experiences encompass skill-building in historical, social, and technical research, data collection and visualization, community and stakeholder engagement, formal and material analyses, condition surveys, planning and policy development, interpretive and adaptive design, and the formulation of evidence-based proposals for action. Exploring questions of research and interpretation, cultural identity and values, justice and equity, sustainability and resilience, creative expression and process, these studios position the work in the field within broader societal and environmental contexts, and within broader realms of critical inquiry.

During the summer between the first and second year, the Historic Preservation Program strongly suggests the completion of one or more internships or work experiences as part of a student’s education and career development, and provides support in identifying opportunities in New York and elsewhere.

A capstone of the curriculum is a student thesis. As a critical piece of independent research, the thesis allows students to augment their course and fieldwork to further develop specialized knowledge in an aspect of the preservation enterprise. Students develop their thesis work with the support of faculty to forge new lines of inquiry and practice, as well as to engage with members of the discipline as they launch their careers.

For those students who would like to like to specialize further or expand their studies, GSAPP offers dual degrees, allowing Historic Preservation students to jointly study Architecture (MArch), Urban Planning, or Real Estate Development.

Studio Reports

Browse the carousel to learn more about research completed through historic preservation studios, and visit the archive of digital publications from 2013 until present.


The Historic Preservation Podcast features a series of conversations between Jorge Otero-Pailos, director of GSAPP’s Historic Preservation Program, and leaders in the field of historic preservation and heritage conservation. Subscribe to the podcast on SoundCloud.

Summer 2024 Courses

Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A4080‑1 Summer 2024
HP Elective Internship
Sarahgrace Godwin
1.5 Points
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Fitch Colloquium

2022 Fitch Colloquium: Preservation in China’s Future

Student Portfolios

Tonia Sing Chi ‘18 MArch/MSHP
Award-Winning Graduation Portfolio
Andrea Tonc ‘16 MArch/MSHP Award-Winning Graduation Portfolio
Andrea tonc portfolio update