Skip to content Skip to navigation

New Building in Old Cities: Architecture and Conservation in Historic Settings

Monday, November 19, 2018 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Registration is required
Members $15 and Non-members $20

New Building in Old Cities: Architecture and Conservation in Historic Settings

Steven Semes

Can contemporary design and historic architecture be reconciled? The central paradox of historic preservation is how to harmonize old and new architecture, maintaining a distinction between historic fabric and new work while also maintaining a continuity of character. In recent decades, debate has tended to favor either visual harmony based on material and stylistic similarity or visual dissonance aimed at dramatizing the difference between work of the past and "the architecture of our time." Four strategies can be identified for relating old and new, ranging from literal replication to intentional opposition, with two intermediate positions, invention within a style and abstract reference. The talk will examine each of these, illustrated by examples, and then look at guidance on choosing the right approach from the National Park Service, ICOMOS, UNESCO, and other bodies.

Steven W. Semes is professor of architecture and director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. He was academic director of the Notre Dame Rome Studies Program 2008-2011 and currently splits his teaching duties between Rome and the main campus. Educated at the University of Virginia and Columbia University, he is the author of The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation (2009) and The Architecture of the Classical Interior (2004). He has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. From 2013 to 2015 he was editor of The Classicist for the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA), and was a fellow and member of the ICAA faculty from 1997 to 2005. His current research focuses on the traditional architects of the inter-war period in Rome. Prior to joining the Notre Dame faculty in 2005, he practiced architecture for over thirty years in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

This lecture is presented in partnership with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art New England Chapter.

What better way to explore one of Boston’s most exquisite buildings than with the Athenæum’s very own Art and Architecture Tour? These docent-led, hour-long tours focus on the architectural history of 10½ Beacon, as well as the organization’s history and its collections. 

To register, follow the registration button on the right. If you would prefer your information to pre-populate, log in to your My Athenæum Profile. To log in to your My Athenæum Profile click on the profile icon found in the upper right corner of each page on our website.

If you do not yet have a profile, select “New User? Create an account” on the Profile Login page. Members create their own accounts; a username and password are not assigned when you join the Athenæum.


Assistive Listening Devices image

Most programs held in the Bayard Henry Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

ASL Interpretation image

To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or