Buildings and structures, as well as their relationships to each other and to surrounding landscapes, have the potential to reveal a vibrant history of humans and their environment. As tangible, fast-disappearing links to the past, the built heritage should be recorded as the first step towards responsible cultural resource stewardship. By identifying the types of resources present, their relation to one another, and their level of integrity, an architectural survey accomplishes this first step.
Architectural surveys are generally undertaken for one of two broad reasons. First, they can be completed as part of a community’s wish to form a comprehensive understanding of its heritage and to preserve important resources. For example, a historic neighborhood association may wish to determine what architectural resources are present in their area and which of these are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. An architectural survey provides an account of the types, styles, and features of each historic resource present in the study area. An architectural survey can also include an analysis of cultural landscape resources such as parks, public spaces, roads, cemeteries, and natural resources present in the historic community.
The second reason to complete architectural surveys stems from the requirements of federal law, particularly the National Historic Preservation Act. Most often, the powers of this law are enacted for one of two reasons. First, federal entities are mandated to locate, inventory, evaluate, and nominate the historic resources in their care on federal land under Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Second, projects that involve federal funding and have the potential to impact historic resources that may be listed, or are potentially eligible for listing on the National Register, must also conduct architectural surveys to determine the effects of their proposed undertaking. In these instances, surveys are conducted to determine if historic buildings and structures are present in a project’s Area of Potential Effect, as well as whether any of these resources are National Register-eligible and require treatment during project planning and implementation.
New South Associates has completed a large number of city and county architectural surveys and regularly conducts building surveys for Section 106 projects throughout the eastern United States.