Conservation architects specialize in the preservation and conservation of historic buildings and monuments to prevent deterioration. Usually, a bachelor of science degree in architecture, art history, or chemistry from an accredited university is required, depending on the region. To become a conservation architect, it may be necessary to hold a master’s degree in conservation architecture or historic preservation. Experience in the conservation of historic buildings or monuments, either during an internship or at the professional level, is usually a requirement to become a conservation architect.
Although some conservation architects might have an architecture degree, many have chosen related degrees, like art history or historic preservation, to pursue their vocation. For many conservation architect jobs, a master’s degree is required. Some graduate programs in related disciplines offer certificate programs in conservation or historic preservation. Usually, no licensing or registration exams are required to become a conservation architect, as in traditional architecture career paths.
Many conservation architects feel that a strong science background, especially in chemistry, is good preparation for this career. Conservation architects frequently test materials, repair structures, and manage projects, so any additional knowledge and experience in these areas can give a job applicant an advantage.
As in most fields, it can be difficult to become a conservation architect without some previous related experience. Some conservation architects enter the field after completing an internship or working as part of a historic reservation crew to gain valuable experience. Some colleges and universities offer associate-level degrees in historic preservation that can be used as a stepping stone on the path to becoming a full-fledged conservation architect.
A conservation architect may wear many different hats and must be equally comfortable working hands on in the field, researching and testing in the lab, and communicating with teams. It’s helpful to be able to communicate ideas well, both orally and with the written word. Conservation architects must be able to accurately document when in the field and to relay information to others on a preservation team.
It’s helpful to be able to balance attention to detail with an ability to see the big picture. Thinking critically, finding creative solutions to unique problems, and being comfortable with limited resources or less than ideal working conditions is crucial. Sometimes a conservation architect is required to travel extensively to job sites in various regions.
The best conservation architects have good management skills, both of people and of projects. Historic preservation projects may contain unforeseen variables and may take several years, so a conservation architect must have patience, organization, and clear thinking to see a project through to its ultimate completion.