The Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ACL) of the Department of Historic Preservation supports the program’s curriculum in a state-of-the art facility where conservation science and technical studies come together to advance teaching and research in Architectural Conservation. The ACL is led by Professor Frank Matero who founded the lab upon his arrival at Penn in 1991 to provide the necessary scientific facilities for teaching the then newly launched curriculum in the technical conservation of the built environment. Since then, both the field and Penn’s role in educating its leaders has greatly expanded through innovative approaches to documentation, recording, field survey, material analysis, condition assessment, and treatment evaluation of historic structures and sites. In 2021 the ACL relocated from Meyerson Hall to a new purpose-built facility in Duhring Wing designed by Kelly Maiello Architects.
The ACL supports materials-based inquiry through courses and research dedicated to the study of historic and traditional building materials and construction systems including their characterization, diagnosis, and treatment, both remedial and preventive. This requires the necessary dedicated space and equipment for the program’s specialized courses in building conservation science and its seminars in masonry, wood, concrete, finishes, and other architectural materials and systems. It also provides a technical support facility for the Program’s Center for Architectural Conservation.
The lab also houses the School’s comprehensive historic building materials study collection, an encyclopedic resource of stone, brick, terracotta, mortar, concrete, metals, wood, and painted finishes for conservators, scholars, and all design students who desire first-hand exposure to the materials of traditional architecture and buildings ranging from early mudbrick of the first cities to post war concrete and contemporary terracotta rainscreen. The ACL also houses the Vermont Marble Company’s international archives and stone library; the historic 19th-century plasterwork collection from the Alhambra; and the Walker Zanger commercial stone library, two of the largest US commercial global stone collections.