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Enhancing fieldwork learning experiences for the architectural conservation curriculum

Dimitris Theodossopoulos (ESALA, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Edwar Calderon (URBAM-Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Ambientales, Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 29 April 2021

Issue publication date: 1 December 2022




Fieldwork in architectural conservation education is a proven practice to develop skills in documenting current conditions and start methodological engagements with a site's architectural and historical values. It is a vehicle to generate intensive learning experiences in comprehensive degrees or short courses. Review of the practice within conservation education is not extensive and the purpose of this paper is to reflect on enhancing pedagogy further.


This reflection was triggered by a major case study, a workshop to generate UG teaching capacity for an Architecture school in Colombia. This led to mapping the fieldwork spectrum, reviewing the authors' experiences (PG courses and external workshops) and activities planned in other MSc programmes. Fieldwork is often seen as skills training, so enhancement is explored through the affiliate geography and architecture UG curricula.


The Colombia workshop provoked strong engagement among students and tutors, and their commitment to make heritage meaningful to their projects is a measure of this pedagogy's success. Fieldwork around a site's essence, beyond skills development can induce conservation students into critical enquiries by motivating them to develop personalised contexts and enhance engagement with the unexpected through inversion of linear learning processes. Setting up site exercises early on PG programmes can encourage curiosity in exploring historic environments and contextualise surveying methods.

Research limitations/implications

Student reaction to these ideas has still to be tested by designing new activities. The educational methods of this implementation need deeper analysis, beyond the paper's scope.


The paper maps the academic value of fieldwork in conservation education, investigating enhancement and cross-fertilisation from architecture and geography.



The authors kindly acknowledge funding for the research project by the Newton Fund of the British Council. The second author also had the generous support of the PEAK Urban programme, which is funded by the UKRI’s Global Challenge Research Fund, Grant Ref: ES / P011055 / 1

The colleagues at UTCH are warmly thanked: Johana Lozano for co-ordinating the exercise; Edison Ledesma, head of school for his hospitality; the tutors of the three groups, Aura Conto, Jose Luis Copete and Antonio Hinestroza for guiding the students; Victor Valencia Abadia, founder of the school, for enthusiastic input; Douglas Cujar for his immense working knowledge of the evolution of the city. The Diocese of the Chocó, for the inspiring site visit to the Cathedral of Quibdó.

Dr Dan Swanton, the principal investigator of the project, provided unique insight into non-linear learning processes. Prof. Suzanne Ewing, Dr Lisa Moffit, Dr Ana Bonet-Miro, Dr Miguel Paredes-Maldonado, Dr Ruxandra-Iulia Stoica, Jane Robertson and Christianna Veloudaki colleagues in ESALA; Prof. Donatella Fiorani from the Sapienza University; Dr Aziliz Vandesande from RLICC Leuven and Dr Mariona Genis at UPC are warmly thanked for insight to their inspiring teaching practices.


Theodossopoulos, D. and Calderon, E. (2022), "Enhancing fieldwork learning experiences for the architectural conservation curriculum", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 392-407.



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