Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Embry, Ruth Marie (2014). Preserving Ambiguity: Reconstructing the Floating Church of the Redeemer. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Reconstructions are architectural undertakings; they are dependent on the establishment of a feasible construct through the design and interpretation of available information by an architect, yet they are discussed and evaluated based on the educational, social, and political motives and intents of the projects. Architecture, in both its technical and theoretical manifestations, is central to the success of any reconstruction and has the strongest impact on the effect the new construct will have on future interpretation. Preservation professionals and critics focus their writings on the educational and cultural heritage implications of the new building and assess its successes and failures without mention of the design decisions that characterize them. Architects write extensively about designing new buildings for historic environments and the use of historic forms in new designs, but rarely consider the implications and possibilities of reconstructing historic buildings.

This thesis examines this discrepancy. Through discourse and a proposal for the reconstruction of the Floating Church of the Redeemer, reconstruction will be addressed through architectural theory and practice rather than education and heritage. This thesis proposes several architectural approaches to reconstruction to initiate a discussion that needs to be undertaken by architects and theoreticians that have addressed historic environments and contemporary design. Reconstruction is often seen as a lesser design typology, but it is as equally significant and influential as other constructs in historic environments and requires the same depth of research and discussion.


simulacra, presentness, design, design proposal, architecture



Date Posted: 03 September 2014