An Architectural Conservation Journey, by Fizza Abbasi

Our current student Fizza Abbasi writes about the MSc in Architectural Conservation, focusing on the programme’s employment opportunities, field trips, ‘hands-on’ approach to conservation, and our critical view of its implementation in the historic sites of Kent.

‘As I sit down to reflect on my journey through the MSc Architectural Conservation program, I can’t help but marvel at the depth of knowledge I’ve gained and the transformative impact it’s had on my perspective of conservation. From the intricacies of conservation theory to the hands-on technical skills essential for preserving historic sites, this course has been nothing short of a wonderful experience for me as an international student coming to the UK.

One of the most unique aspects of studying in Canterbury is the unparalleled access to the city’s rich historical tapestry. Canterbury, with its majestic Cathedral and storied past, serves not just as a backdrop but as an integral part of our education. The opportunity to witness firsthand the conservation efforts on a World Heritage Site and field trips to various parts of Kent including, Maidstone, Charing, Ramsgate, Sheerness on the sea, Dover, etc were an invaluable resource, enriching our learning experience in profound ways.

This program is not just about passive observation; it’s about active engagement and empowerment. Whether it’s delving into conservation philosophy or mastering the technical intricacies of repair and reconstruction, every aspect of the curriculum is designed to foster critical thinking and practical expertise.

As part of my coursework project entitled ‘The Impact of Heritage Legislation: A Case study of St. Martin’s church, Herne Bay’, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Jonathan Deeming from Purcell and hear his insights regarding the current statutory framework for the conservation of churches especially in the case of Canterbury Cathedral. At the end of his discussion, I was offered working experience at Purcell, Canterbury in February 2024.

I was able to work alongside some of the senior architects; Stephen Athanasiou, Neil King, and Lian Harter attending site and reviewing completed works in relation to the conservation and restoration of listed buildings including the Eastbridge Hospital, Assisi Cottage, etc. I went on some live sites including Canterbury Cathedral to see conservation in action and help in the documentation of pinnacles of the cathedral, assisted in the Heritage assessment report of the Assisi cottage anf reviewed a Conservation Management Plan for Madeira Terrace in Brighton. Overall, the experience was really an eye opener for me, and motivated me with a sense of purpose and responsibility, inspiring me as I am about to write my dissertation.’

During the week she spent with Purcell architects, our student Fizza Abbasi had the opportunity to work on the conservation of Canterbury Cathedral, seen here from the west.
Canterbury Cathedral, Cloister, detail of Pinnacle
Canterbury Cathedral, West Portal
Canterbury Cathedral, Surveying the Cloister Pinnacles, Fizza Abbasi, 2024