The issues that are most debated in historic preservation circles today in the United States are also the focus of debate in other countries. We can broaden our understanding of our own preservation practices by considering them in an international context. This question is as relevant (and difficult) in Newport as it is in Rome or Paris, and a look at how others have addressed it may offer some guidance, both for preservation education and professional practice. Especially informative are the many Charters and declarations from such bodies as UNESCO and ICOMOS as well as from national and local authorities around the world over the last half century. One of the most contentious issues is the relation between new and old construction in areas under preservation regulation: Should new structures maintain a consistency of character and style with their historic neighbors, or should new construction confidently represent the style of the current moment? What can we learn from international experience about managing this relationship between old and new?
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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). His many articles have appeared in The New Criterion, National Trust Forum Journal, Change Over Time, The Classicist, Traditional Building and Period Homes. He has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. His current research focuses on the history of modern conservation theory and practice in Italy and the United States. Prior to joining the Notre Dame faculty in 2005, he practiced architecture for thirty years with firms in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.