Skip to main content


“Preservation Beyond Brick and Mortar: Managing Changes in Recent Past Modern American Synagogues” 

Anat Geva, PhD (Professor Emerita, Texas A&M University) 

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

*Registered attendees are eligible to earn one continuing education credit (1 LU) from the American Institute of Architects. To apply, please email



“Preserve my life, for I am holy.” Psalm 86:2 

Numerous scholars (e.g., Jester 2014; Forty 2012; Prudon 2008) provide a detailed discussion on material conservation in preserving the recent past. An example of this approach can be found in mid 20th century modern American synagogues where various congregations proudly maintained the materiality of their houses of worship with an attempt to preserve the buildings’ modernist design. 

However, the attempt to preserve these synagogues confronted the congregations with additional challenges beyond the issues of brick and mortar. These challenges reflected the need to adapt to changes in four inter-related domains: 

(a) A decline in service attendance due to aging members, a smaller affiliation of younger generations with religion, and often the move of members to newer suburbs of the city. These demographic changes called for administrative and religious adaptations, which were also expressed in various architectural solutions; 

(b) Modifications in liturgy and rituals from a hierarchical approach to a more open and liberal service, which brings the clergy closer to the worshipers. This approach called for new arrangements of the sanctuary and demonstrated the capacity of the interior architecture “to encapsulate all the theological and liturgical traditions of a congregation” (Weissbach 2003); 

(c) Changes in building codes to include accessibility and safety measures; and 

(d) The rise of utilities costs that pushed the congregations to add new chapels to accommodate smaller groups of worshipers for daily small services. The large original sanctuaries only serve for high attendance of Shabbat and high holidays services, festivals, and family celebrations like weddings. The new chapels, though, raise a question of how these new and often local architects coped with icons of mid 20th century modern architecture.


The presentation will illustrate how congregations managed these changes and what were the architectural solutions that cater to these problems while preserving the historic integrity of the buildings. Solutions include accessibility design issues, acoustics, additions of new chapels, and adaptive use of parts of the synagogues’ complexes.


This research adds a new layer to the preservation of recent past buildings showing the efforts to manage the changes through the years while preserving the congregations' symbol of modern and free life in America. Examples include synagogues designed by prominent modern architects such as Eric Mendelsohn, Walter Gropius, Percival Goodman, Minoru Yamasaki, Sydney Eisenshtat, and Pietro Belluschi. 



Anat Geva, Ph.D., is a registered architect and Professor Emerita of Architecture at Texas A&M University, where she taught design, preservation, history of building technology, and sacred architecture. She has published many articles and book chapters in these areas. She is the author of Frank Lloyd Wright Sacred Architecture: Faith, Form and Building Technology (Routledge 2012), the editor of Modernism and American Mid-20th Century Sacred Architecture (Routledge 2019), and co-editor (with Inbal Ben-Asher Gitler) of Israel Architecture as an Experimental Lab for Modern Architecture: 1948-1978 (Intellect Ltd. 2020). Her forthcoming book on modern Americansynagogues is under contract with Texas A&M University Press. She has previously been the co-editor of ARRIS and Preservation Education and Research journals and a book editor for APT Bulletin. She has served as a board member for the Association for Preservation Technology (APT), the Architecture, Culture and Spirituality Forum (ACSF), and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). She has also served as president of the  Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH), vice chair of the Construction History Society of America (CHSA), and secretary of the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE).




Past Events 




"Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Treasures," a lecture by Chip Colwell, PhD, Senior Curator of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. 

DATE: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 

TIME: 6:30pm 

LOCATION: Francis Hall 102 (Segner Auditorium) 

Texas A&M University 


Five decades ago, Native American leaders launched a crusade against museums to reclaim their sacred objects and to rebury their kin. This controversy has exploded in recent years as hundreds of tribes have used a landmark federal law to recover their heritage from more than one thousand museums across America. Many still question how to balance the religious freedoms of Native Americans with the academic freedoms of American scientists, and the arguments continue on about whether the emptying of museum shelves elevates human rights or destroys humanity's common heritage. This talk presents a new book, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America's Culture, a personal journey that illuminates how repatriation has transformed both American museums and Native communities. This story reveals why repatriation law has become an imperfect but necessary tool to resolve the collision of worldviews between scientists and Native Americans-to decide the nature of the sacred and the destiny of souls. 


Dr. Chip Colwell is Senior Curator of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He has held fellowships with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, National Endowment for the Humanities, and US Fulbright Program. He has published more than 50 scholarly articles and chapters, and 9 books. His work has been highlighted in such venues as The New York Times, The Denver Post, Archaeology Magazine, and garnered numerous awards, including the National Council on Public History Book Award. He is the founding editor-in-chief of SAPIENS, an online magazine dedicated to anthropology for the public. 

Dr. Colwell's visit to College Station is made possible by funding from the Nancy Wilkie Lectureship in Archaeological Heritage from the Archaeological Institute of America. This lecture is free and open to the public. Please feel free to invite friends, family, students and colleagues!


Prof. Kevin Glowacki

Interim Director, Center for Heritage Conservation

Texas A&M University 






 “An Archaeologist’s Eye: Drawing the Parthenon Metopes” 

A lecture by Prof. Katherine A. Schwab (Fairfield University) 


DATE: Thursday, March 23, 2017

TIME: 5:30pm

LOCATION: Memorial Student Center (MSC) Room 2406

Texas A&M University



This lecture explores the art and architectural history of the Parthenon, in Athens, Greece, through an analysis of a vital element of the temple’s symbolic message: the sculpted metopes that decorated the building’s Doric frieze. Although early travelers to Greece sometimes drew the well-preserved figures of Greeks battling Centaurs on the south metopes, little attention was paid to the badly damaged sculptures of the east (Gods v. Giants), west (Greeks v. Amazons), or north (Sack of Troy) until the first half of the 20th century. In this lecture, archaeologist, art historian, and artist Katherine Schwab will present a contextual analysis of the metopes as part of a carefully designed visual program. The poor preservation of the relief sculptures has presented many challenges for contemporary researchers, and Prof. Schwab will explain how she and others have experimented to find a new approaches to “draw out” new information about the compositions, including current work on color and added metal attachments. The deliberate defacement of the metopes in antiquity can also be compared to recent attempts to destroy ancient art, architecture, and cultural memory at sites such as Bamiyan in Afghanistan and Palmyra in Syria.

Katherine A. Schwab is Professor of Art History in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University. Her traveling exhibition, “An Archaeologist’s Eye” is on display until July 23, 2017, in the Forsyth Galleries in the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University. For more information, see the UART webpage.

This lecture is sponsored at Texas A&M University by: The Forsyth Galleries; the Montague Scholar’s Program of the Center for Teaching Excellence; the Department of Architecture; the Department of Visualization; the Center for Heritage Conservation; the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research; the Glasscock Center Working Group in the History of Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture; and the College Station Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.



The Center for Heritage Conservation and the Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University are pleased to sponsor “Path to the Future: World Heritage as Community Development Strategy”, A lecture by Vincent L. Michael, PhD, Executive Director of the San Antonio Conservation Society. 

DATE: Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TIME: 5:30pm

LOCATION: Scoates Hall Room 208 (SCTS 208)  


Vincent Michael is Executive Director of the San Antonio Conservation Society, one of the oldest heritage preservation groups in the United States.   He is Trustee Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where he served as Vice Chair of the Preservation and Sites Committee and Diversity Task Force. A widely sought after speaker, he has presented numerous times at national preservation conferences and keynotes for preservation conferences in Canada, India, Colorado, and Missouri and the National Tribal Preservation Conference.  He has also presented at conferences in China, Sweden, Ukraine, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands.

Dr. Michael held the John H. Bryan Chair in Historic Preservation at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he ran the Historic Preservation program from 1996 to 2010.  His 33-year career in heritage conservation began with the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor and Landmarks Illinois. He is Chair Emeritus of the National Council for Preservation Education and has served on numerous public and private boards. He received his doctorate in architectural history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has published widely, including the 2013 book The Architecture of Barry Byrne.

For more information, contact: Prof. Anat Geva (