In the Footsteps of Vitruvius…

Design and Construction Durability Lessons Learned from the Hands-on Study of Two Thousand Years of Historic Construction

Free for ICAA Members
$20 General Public

Matthew Bronski, PE, FAAR, Guest Lecturer

Please note Pacific Standard Time

Please note registration will close 1 hour prior to the event.

Construction that is highly durable over the very long-term (e.g., centuries) is inherently sustainable. Despite major emphasis on sustainability in recent decades, we are in the midst of a widespread crisis of rapid building durability failures, with failures running the gamut from new wood-framed, spec-builder houses on Anystreet USA, to prominent commissions by “Starchitects” at major museums and university campuses. Yet, while many mid-to-late 20th century concrete structures are now experiencing severe deterioration, many ancient Roman structures, and later buildings from the medieval and renaissance periods have stood the test of time. Where did we go wrong? What do we fail to understand today about designing for durability? And what pertinent lessons, if any, can we derive from historic construction examples that have proven durable for many centuries?

In this slide lecture, Matthew Bronski, the 2009-10 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation, will present some key findings from his Rome Prize research project. His 10 month long Rome research project comprised hands-on study of approximately two dozen historic buildings in Italy, ranging from the 1st c. B.C. to the early 20th c., including buildings by Bernini, Borromini, Moretti, and others. His hands-on research (often on the scaffolds of buildings under restoration) diagnosed successes and failures in the durability of construction detailing, to derive lessons and general principles for designing buildings more durably (and hence more sustainably) today.

For the past 25 years, Matthew Bronski’s practice at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. in Boston has focused on investigating and diagnosing the causes and consequences of building envelope and structural problems in historic buildings, and designing sensitive and appropriate repairs and restorations/rehabilitations to solve those problems.

Matthew holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tulane University, a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Historic Preservation also from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and a Recognized Professional of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTi).

Matthew has led SGH’s envelope investigation and restoration design efforts on numerous highly significant buildings, including over a dozen National Historic Landmarks. His recent projects include exterior restorations of Lowell House (c. 1929) and Harvard Hall (c. 1760) at Harvard University, the Boston Athenaeum (c. 1849), and H.H Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston (c. 1877). At SGH’s in-house laboratory, he has supervised the analysis and testing of historic building materials including mortar, brick, sandstone, granite, marble, slate, clay tile, and historic glass. He has written and lectured extensively on topics ranging from preservation philosophy, to façade inspections of masonry buildings, to traditional slate, clay tile, and copper roofing. He has served as a guest lecturer or guest critic at numerous universities, including Harvard, MIT, UMass Amherst, and Yale.

Image: Matthew Bronski, drawing of a common and highly durable roof eave detail in Rome, this example from Palazzetto degli Anguillaram, (c. mid 15th c.), now the Casa di Dante, Rome.

This program will be presented on Zoom. The link will be sent 24 hours prior to the event.

Our Digital Programs Made Possible by the Generous Support from:

Leadership Circle:
Tim Barber Architects
Richard Holz, Inc. Builders
Wade Weissmann Architecture
Appleton Partners
Jeff Hyland
Landry Design Group

Shawn Nelson Builders
DD Ford Construction
Foster Reeve Architectural & Ornamental Plaster
E. Braun & Company
New York Design Center
Robert’s Inc.
Dugally Oberfeld
Reside Custom Homes
MG Partners
LightStyle Automated Systems
Prime ECS Lifestyle Technology
Paul Brant Williger, Architect

Gordon Gibson Construction
Rose Tarlow Melrose House
Benner Landscape Design
J.R.C. Group
Sun Electric
PHX Architecture
Kneedler Fauchere
Lutron & Western Energy & Lighting Controls
No. 8 Lighting


February 3 @ 4:00 pm
4:00 pm — 5:00 pm (1h)