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Michele Kenney

Historic Interiors: The Significance of Protection

           Thousands of historic interior spaces and finishes are destroyed every year.  It is obvious that in order the save the internal spaces of a building, one must save the exterior first and foremost.  Therefore, it is not surprising that preserving the skin of significant historic buildings is the primary goal of virtually all current historic preservation ideologies.

Nearly all existing historic preservation ordinances concentrate on what can only be seen from the public way, thus creating a path for the alteration of many important historic features.  Saving historic interiors is neglected and often disregarded, which can lead to the modification of original interior fabric allowing for the desecration of the intent of space and design.  Demolishing or greatly altering interior plans creates a confusion of primary concepts and introduces modernized materials and craftsmanship, thus destroying original objectives. 

Both the preservationists and the public need to be reminded that the development of American interiors is just as valuable as the architectural skin that shelters it.  It is the inside, the heart, and the driving force behind the creation of the structure itself.  We do not build a shelter to stand outside and admire it, we build a shelter because of what needs to happen inside.  Interiors have had an enormous impact in the building culture and heritage of our country. 

Can historic interior fabric be saved?  Before this problem can be addressed a few simple questions must be asked in order to fully understand the significance of historic interior protection.  Who is altering and destroying historic interiors and why?  Could a historic interior preservation ordinance work?  How could the ordinance be enforced and how would the public react?  How would the criteria be proposed and who would establish such standards? 

All of these issues will be explored in this thesis along with current examples of landmarked interiors, existing and feasible financial incentives, and public versus private initiatives.

           Michele Kenney moved into her first historic home in La Grange< Illinois, in 1992, motivating her interest in historic interiors and leading to a BFA in Interior Design with an emphasis in Historic Preservation. She teaches at Harrington College of Design and is an owner of MK Interior Planning.


Thesis Advisor: Rolf Achilles,Adjunct Associate Professor; Art History, Theory, and Criticism; Historic Preservation

Thesis Reader: Diane Boyer, Ph.D.



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