The studio is a practical course in planning urban and regional conservation interventions, bringing to bear the wide range of skills and ideas at play in in the field of historic preservation. Recognizing that historical areas are complex entities where cultural and socio-economic realities, land use, building types, and the legal and institutional setting are all closely interrelated, the main focus of the studio is understanding the cultural significance of the built environment, and the relation of this significance to other economic, social, political and aesthetic values. Through the documentation and analysis of a selected study area, studio teams undertake planning exercises for an historical area, consult with communities and other stakeholders, carry out documentation and historical research, and create policies and projects. The studio seeks to demonstrate how, through careful evaluation of problems and potentials, preservation planning can respond to common conflicts between the conservation of cultural and architectural values and the pressure of social forces, economic interest, and politics.
The studio focuses on a specific area in need of comprehensive preservation effort, most often in Philadelphia proper. Students work in teams as well as on individual projects. Consultation with local preservation and planning groups, community representatives, and faculty advisers informs research and analyze the study area, helping to define major preservation planning problems and opportunities, formulate policies, and propose preservation plans and actions.