Architectural Conservation: History and Global Practice


Climate change presents a great threat to our cultural heritage. But managing the historic environment can also help us prepare for and respond to change. Architectural conservation has a crucial role to play in our future, by helping us adapt our built environment to be in greater harmony with the natural environment. Those entrusted with the care of our old buildings are responsible for passing on the story of how we make our place in the world.

Care for the historic built environment reflects broader cultural values. In the past, approaches varied from place to place. They depended on the local environment, for example on what materials were available. Global principles have emerged alongside these local traditions. These principles are still tied to social and environmental issues. That means architectural conservation practice has to account for complex issues and attitudes. When caring for an historic building, each case is unique. There are no right answers (although there are plenty of wrong answers!). Science can help us, but it can't make decisions for us.

Together, we will cover the origins of the architectural conservation movement. We will frame practical approaches globally and in the UK within this movement. We will discuss the role of scientific understanding in shaping these developments. Case studies will cover the tutor's work at UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Programme details

Courses starts: 18 Apr 2023

Week 0 (18 Apr): Course orientation

Week 1 (25 Apr):  Global context: Lessons from Mali and Japan

Week 2 (2 May):  Conservation prehistory: From the Renaissance to the Romantic

Week 3 (9 May):  Emergence of theory: Ideal state or anti-scrape?

Week 4 (16 May):  Towards common principles: The Athens and Venice charters and their legacy

Week 5 (23 May):  Case studies 1: The Tower of London and Pompeii

Week 6 (30 May):  The role of science: Understanding change in the built environment

Week 7 (6 June):  Present day frameworks: Managing the historic built environment

Week 8 (13 June):  Balancing values: Architectural conservation in practice

Week 9 (20 June):  Future prospects: Trends in our approach to the historic built environment

Week 10 (27 June):  Case studies 2: Blenheim Palace and Petra


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Martin Michette

Martin studied Architecture and Architectural Conservation and spent several years in practice before doing a DPhil on stone conservation at the Tower of London. He is now a researcher in the Oxford Resilient Buildings and Landscapes Lab at the School of Geography and the Environment.

Course aims

To introduce the complex issues surrounding care for the historic built environment.

Course Objectives

To give context to the emergence of architectural conservation theory, by covering historical developments and explaining different approaches and attitudes.

To locate current practical frameworks and policies within the broader theoretical framework.

To gain an appreciation of how scientific understanding has shaped architectural conservation, and of current trends and their potential implications for managing the historic built environment.

Teaching methods

Weekly pre-recorded lectures will create the structure for the course. You will listen to these independently in advance of the weekly webinars, which are designed to explore and expand topics raised in the lectures. The webinars will use interactive tools to maximise engagement. You will be expected to  participate actively by bringing questions and observations to the weekly webinars.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Know the key developments in the history of architectural conservation. Be able to distinguish different approaches within those developments and assign them to relevant people, charters, etc.

2. Understand the role of deeper cultural values that underpin those different approaches, and be able to articulate several viewpoints on what good practice could entail in any given case.

3. Appreciate the role and limit of scientific method in searching for best practice, and recognise how to apply it within prevailing frameworks.

Assessment methods

You will be invited to submit an essay of max. 1500 words at the end of the course. You can choose the subject of your essay from the broad matter of the course (for example a particular case study, or a reflection on a key development or actor), but it should engage with the complex challenges of care for historic buildings.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

No prior experience is required.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)