Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Planning, Design, and the Built Environment


Ellis, Cliff

Committee Member

Benedict , Robert

Committee Member

Hudgins , Carter

Committee Member

Semes , Steven


The philosophy, policies, and practices of historic preservation are currently struggling with how to incorporate Modern architecture, as many of these buildings are reaching the threshold to be considered historic. Since one of the movement's original goals was to counteract Modernism, it is ironic that many of the buildings initially opposed by historic preservation are now forcing the profession to consider their designation and preservation. The potential preservation of many of these buildings raises important philosophical and practical contradictions for the profession that require further study and resolution.
This study presents the results of a case study of three Modern buildings in Charleston, South Carolina--the old Charleston County Library building, the Rivers Federal Building, and the Gaillard Auditorium. All three buildings are civic buildings, built in the 1960s, and located very close to one another in what is now the historic district in Charleston and under the purview of the Board of Architectural Review. While only the library building has reached the 50-year threshold to be considered historic, the other two buildings will reach it soon and, despite similarities among the buildings, each is receiving a different preservation treatment.
The qualitative study utilized an explanatory case study methodology and analyzed several different sources of evidence in order to triangulate the results between them. Sources of data included archival evidence, minutes from Board of Architectural Review meetings, and most significantly, in-depth interviews with a small number of expert participants. The participants included architects, preservationists, members of the Board of Architectural Review, attorneys and others with knowledge of Charleston's preservation community.
The findings from this research suggest that the potential preservation of Modern architecture presents numerous contradictions for the field of historic preservation and has implications for the field of architecture as well. By dictating that new buildings must express the zeitgeist, both architecture and preservation are creating and supporting an unsustainable cycle of constantly needing to break new ground, rather than relying more on the tried-and-true solutions from the past. Analysis of the cases of the three buildings in the study suggest that the problem is only going to become more acute, as more and more Modern buildings become eligible for historic designation.