Six Lessons Learned on Detailing for Durability from Six Iconic Houses

Six Lessons Learned on Detailing for Durability from Six Iconic Houses

Restoring an iconic, historic, modernist house designed by an internationally acclaimed architect can pose many technical and philosophical challenges for a project team. Often, these buildings have an Achilles-heel detail where a critical design flaw has not stood the test of time, creating problems such as leakage, deterioration, or structural degradation. In these instances, a key question is how can we design a successful repair where the original failed, while maintaining the original design and aesthetics. Conversely, centuries-old iconic houses that have aged well often have a few remarkable details that were key to long-term durability. These details have much to teach us about designing for durability if we study them closely and understand why they have worked so well for so long.

In this webinar, we will explore how the details of iconic historic houses, both traditional and modernist, have contributed to their durability or lack thereof, and discuss what we can learn from them—not only for preservation, but also for new design. We will focus on one key detail from each of these six iconic historic houses, analyze why it succeeded or failed, and in the latter case, share the detail we designed to rectify the problem while respecting and maintaining the historic appearance:

  • Palazzetto degli Anguillara (aka, Casa di Dante), c. 1450, Rome, Italy (roof to wall transition detail)
  • Paul Revere House, 1680, Boston, MA (enclosure form)
  • Palazzo Braschi, designed by Cosimo Morelli, 1790, Rome, Italy (window surround details)
  • Gropius House, designed by Walter Gropius, 1938, Lincoln, MA (window head and sill details)
  • Johnson Thesis House, designed by Philip Johnson, 1942, Cambridge, MA (wall to foundation detail)
  • Zimmerman House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1951, Manchester, NH (clay tile roofing details)


After attending this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the major factors and issues that can cause durability problems.
  • Study design drawings to identify what enclosure details are most likely to affect durability.
  • Design these potentially problematic details for long-term durability, while maintaining overall aesthetic goals.
  • Use case study example projects to learn how to identify and rectify similarly problematic details in renovations and restorations.

Participants will earn 1.0 AIA CES Learning Unit (LU/HSW) for attending the live webinar. Registration is free. Please note that space is limited – email events@sgh.com to join our waitlist if the session is closed when you register. 

About the Speaker

Matthew Bronski
Matthew Bronski | Senior Principal

Matthew Bronski is the SGH Preservation Practice Area Leader, and has led SGH’s projects on many iconic modernist buildings. He holds degrees in engineering, architecture, and historic preservation.  He has published numerous papers on historic preservation and building enclosure issues, and has served as a guest lecturer or guest critic at numerous universities, including Harvard, MIT, and Yale. He also serves as an instructor in the Getty Conservation Institute’s annual international course on conserving modern architecture. In 2009, he became only the second engineer in 113 years to receive the prestigious Rome Prize, which he received in the field of Historic Preservation and Conservation.