Paul E. Buchanan Award

The winner of the 2017 Paul E. Buchanan Award is The Newport Restoration Foundation of Newport, RI for their 2016 conference Keeping History Above Water, exhibition, and publication Keeping 74 Bridge Street Above Water: Lessons from the City of Newport and the Point Neighborhood on protecting historic structures and neighborhoods from the impacts of climate change.

The NRF was founded in 1968 by Doris Duke with the express purpose of preserving, interpreting, and maintaining landscape and objects reflecting Newport’s and Aquidneck Island’s 18th and 19th century architectural heritage.  The NRF owns and operates three museums and holds extensive collection of historic Newport furniture.  Since 1968 83 historic buildings, some of them rescued from demolition, have been restored or preserved.  Today 68 are rented as residences and are maintained by the NRF.

In 2016 the NRF commissioned a planning study to explore strategies for preserving historic houses and traditional coastal neighborhoods in the face of sea level rise. A two-day charrette assembled architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, historians, historic preservation professionals, city officials, and Newport residents, to discuss the issues facing Newport’s historic neighborhood called The Point, dating from the early eighteenth-century through the early twentieth century,

While the study would look closely at one historic house -74 Bridge Street (ca. 1728 with later alterations) - the overall objective was to identify a range of approaches that might protect the physical cultural heritage of the entire neighborhood in the face of the mounting environmental pressure of sea level rise and increasingly more frequent and severe precipitation events. It soon became clear that infrastructure solutions would be important adaptation strategies for historic properties in the path of sea level rise, and the study then expanded to consider convergence of site drainage needs, high tides, high water tables, and storm surges in the neighborhood. During the conference, the study's findings were presented in an exhibition, held at the case study house and memorialized in a booklet publication.

The Newport Restoration Foundation worked with Union Studio Architecture and Community Design (Providence, Rhode Island) and Building Conservation Associates (Newton, Massachusetts) to undertake the case study work, and had additional assistance from architect Mohamad Farzan of NewPort Architecture (Newport, Rhode Island).

Keeping History Above Water has expanded to include a variety of activities related to climate and cultural heritage across Rhode Island and around the world. A second conference will be held October 29-November 1, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland, where the City of Annapolis is taking the lead in hosting the second edition of Keeping History Above Water.

Paul Buchanan

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Paul Buchanan Investigating Plasterwork


2018 Call for Nominations

The Vernacular Architecture Forum seeks nominations for the Paul E. Buchanan Award.

The award was instituted by VAF in 1993 to recognize contributions to the study and preservation of vernacular architecture and the cultural landscape that do not take the form of books or published work.  Hundreds of studies, reports, documentation projects, restoration projects, conservation plans, National Register nominations, exhibits, video/digital media productions and public programs are completed each year without the benefit of distribution or recognition beyond the limited audience for which they were commissioned.  Nonetheless, many of these efforts can serve to inform and inspire us all.  The award is named for Paul E. Buchanan who served for over thirty years as the Director of Architectural Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Buchanan set the standard for architectural fieldwork in America and inspired many VAF members in the rewards of fieldwork. This award honors the valuable work of documenting and understanding built environments that most of our members and professional associates perform.


Exceptional projects that set new standards or model innovative practices, completed in the last two years are eligible for consideration and may include, but are not limited to:

  • Architectural Recording Projects (including HABS/HAER/HALS)
  • Historic Structures Reports
  • Cultural Resource Surveys
  • Historic Designation Studies (including United States National Register, Canadian Register of Historic Places (CRHP), United States National Historic Landmark and National Historic Site of Canada)
  • Preservation or Conservation Plans
  • Restoration or Rehabilitation Projects that express the significance of the resource or illustrate novel ways the resource has been preserved
  • Furnishing Plans and Installations
  • Exhibits and Other Temporary Installations
  • Permanent Museum Exhibits
  • Visual Arts Presentations (e.g. drawing, painting, photography, 3-D media)
  • Film and Video Presentations
  • Computer Applications and Modeling
  • Educational and Interpretive Programs
  • Symposia, Conferences, and Public Events

Nomination materials should include:
  • Cover letter that explains the merits of the project and outlining the ways the project sets new standards or models innovative practices or otherwise contributes to the study and preservation of vernacular architecture or cultural landscapes.
  • Project documentation, e.g. copy of the report, audio-visual presentation, exhibition boards, etc. in a format that can be downloaded to the VAF Buchanan committee.

Please submit nomination materials electronically in a single zip file to Should the file size exceed 50MB, please communicate with us at the same address. Likewise, if you must send a paper or hard copy of your documentation, please email us so that we may make alternate arrangements.

The application deadline for the 2018 Buchanan Award is February 16, 2018.

Past Buchanan Award Winners

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