"France and the U.S. Differing Approaches to Historic Preservation" A Lecture by Robert Hotes

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Alliance Française, 1420 Walnut Street Suite 700
Philadelphia, PA 19102
United States

The United States is a decentralized federal system of government composed of individual states with a strong basis in individual property rights and a secular separation of church and state. France, on the other hand, is a highly centralized state, centered in Paris, in which the government replaced the role of king and church. These basic yet fundamental differences impact how each country approaches the preservation of historic monuments, buildings and sites.

Today’s standards for historic preservation are an outgrowth and continuation of a general philosophical approach to change first expressed by John Ruskin in England in the 1850s, formalized by William Morris in the founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877, expanded by the Society in 1924 and, finally, reiterated in the 1964 Venice Charter – a document that continues to be followed by sixty-four national committees of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

In the United States, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are the tool adopted by all federal agencies, as well as most state and local governments, to evaluate historic preservation projects. Three decades after the drafting of the Standards, the issue of how to intervene within historic settings remains a subject of intense debate in the profession. Interpretation of the Standards by preservation authorities and practicing architects alike has been varied and, at times, contradictory. In his 2009 book, The Future of the Past, Steven Semes identified four categories of response for new design in historic contexts:

  • Literal replication
  • Invention within a style
  • Abstract reference
  • Intentional opposition

Bob Hotes's research as the 2011 Richard Morris Hunt Fellow explored the range of viewpoints in France on design in historic contexts, and this lecture will present a basic framework of the practice of historic preservation in France and a sampling of projects showing a variety of attitudes toward the pre-existing context, from stylistic continuity to striking contrast The projects undefined representing leading French preservation architects undefined will illustrate diverse methodologies, approaches and degrees to which architects and preservation professionals either conform to or challenge the issue of compatibility vs. differentiation.


Bob Hotes received a BSE in Architecture and Civil Engineering from Princeton University and a March and Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. He pursued additional training at the Institute Spetsproyectrestavratsiya in Moscow and at ICCROM in Rome. His career covers a wide breadth of award-winning experience in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic structures. Bob received the 2000 AIA Philadelphia Young Architect Award, and he currently serves on the board of the Delaware Valley Chapter of APT. He is a member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committees ISCARSAH and ISC20C and is an Adjunct Professor in Historic Preservation at Philadelphia University.

As the 2011 laureate of the Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship, Bob spent six months in France, exchanging information, techniques and professional practices, with a focus on the design of new construction within historic contexts.


  • Free -- Alliance Members
  • $10 -- Non-members
Event Type: 
History and Preservation
Global Region: 
Global Region: 
American (United States)