Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Griffith, Julia D. (2016). Reimagining a Past Reality: Tactical Design Interventions for Historic Sites. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Interpretation is communication at its most basic essence. As a tool for historic sites and house museums, this focused and message-driven communication is both necessary and refined, and as unique as each particular site. For many the lost historic material, be it at the building or landscape scale, is vital to convey the type of physical experience which helps visitors make important connections. Reconstruction, especially to the NPS standard, is unfortunately both expensive and time consuming and the increased competition for grant funding has put it out of reach for most sites. This thesis examines the idea of applying a current planning tool, tactical urbanism, as a way to gain insights into how such strategic interpretive decisions and processes work at historic sites. By studying this process as both a larger concept and applying it to an actual place, The Woodlands, in West Philadelphia, PA, this study is able to show that tactical urbanism is a possible method of interpretive planning and a preservation process because it can include history and acknowledge the layers of a place without requiring the destruction of that past. By learning from what occurs through a flexible, actual, relatively low-cost, constructed design, the historic site can better serve its core preservation and education missions and audiences through careful response to visitors’ impressions and understanding. As an ongoing process, with real community input, tactical urbanism projects have a greater ability to create long-term relationships with individual visitors because they build on conversations and feedback.


tactical urbanism, The Woodlands, interpretation, historic sites, placemaking



Date Posted: 31 May 2016