Interior Design Educator Attitudes about Historic Preservation in CIDA Accredited Undergraduate Interior Design Programs

Presented by: Dr. Lisa Tucker

This research explores interior design educator attitudes about Historic Preservation, whether it is being taught in undergraduate interior design programs that are CIDA accredited, and if not what the perceived barriers might be. The researcher also explored whether faculty members thought there were synergies between historic preservation and sustainable design. Previous Master’s theses have looked at the potential synergies between interior design and historic preservation in a limited way either by looking at a specific program or online course content for multiple programs (Hannon, 2011 and Woodcox, 2011). This study builds on previous work by examining the underlying attitudes towards historic preservation among design educators and how programs with historic preservation content are integrating this information. The building industry in North America has undergone significant changes in recent decades. Recent studies have shown that at least half of the buildings that will be in use in 2050 have already been built (Marnay and Stadler, 2008 and Raman, 2009). As a result, the adaptive reuse of buildings has increased, as has the recondition of a relationship between sustainability and historic preservation. Despite a significant body of literature recognizing the overlap between the two, historic preservation has not been widely embraced in design education. For the purposes of this study, historic buildings are those over 50 years old and having significance at the local, state or national level. For decades, historians and architects have argued for the inclusion of historic preservation into architecture curricula with limited success. In 1994, an entire issue of The Journal of Architectural Education (Volume 37, No. 4) was devoted to historic preservation and the need to integrate its values and approach into architecture. The reality is that little has changed and historic preservation has retained its status as an add-on to architecture or architectural history without an integrated approach in architecture curricula. Since most adaptive reuse/historic preservation projects deal with interiors, the interior designer is historic preservation’s natural ally. It can be argued that through historic preservation, this project type provides a way for students to learn about integrated and multi-disciplinary project delivery, industry specific standards, research, social, cultural, and economic factors influencing a project, and many other issues related to the 2017 CIDA standards. The first phase of this research involved surveying interior design educators about their attitudes towards historic preservation, if and how they are teaching this content, and perceived barriers to its inclusion in an accredited program. Surveys were sent to all CIDA accredited undergraduate programs (165). Ten were immediately returned as undeliverable. The preliminary response rate for the survey was 26% (40 responses). The majority of respondents (80%) felt that reusing existing buildings was important for the environment and 72.5% agreed that there is a synergy between interior design and historic preservation. The majority also felt that interior design should include an understanding of historic preservation (57.5% strongly agreed and 35% somewhat agreed) Despite this, only one third (32.5%) of respondents were actively teaching historic preservation and reported that it was offered in less that half the programs (47.5%) most commonly through a studio project. The most frequently cited reason for not including historic preservation content was a lack of space to accommodate this content (66.67%). Future work from this study will focus on developing a curriculum or series of courses and projects that could demonstrate how to integrate historic preservation into a CIDA accredited undergraduate program as a way to explore synergies with sustainable design, a focus on well-being and capitalizing on the ways interior designers work.


  • Hannon, J.G. (2011). Preservation through Partnership: Strengthening the Collaboration between Historic Preservation and Interior design in Higher Education. (Masters Thesis, University of Georgia, 2011). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from
  • Woodcox, J. (2011). Incorporating Historic Preservation into an Accredited Interior Design Program, Reasoning and Application. (Masters Thesis, Wayne State University, 2011). Retrieved August 8, 2016 from
  • Oschner, J.K. and Durbrow, G.L (1994). Architecture and Historic Preservation: Invigorating the Dialogue. The Journal of Architectural Education (47: 4).
  • Mahadev Raman (2009) Mitigating Climate Change: What America’s Building Industry Must Do. Design Intelligence. Retrieved August 15, 2016 from
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation (2011). The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, Retrieved Jan. 26, 2012 via