About Rachel Isacoff

How did you get interested in your field? I grew up in a town which recently celebrated its 300th anniversary. It is located 20 miles from New York City and filled with Victorian houses and a Main Street. I always delighted in imagining what life was like in my town and the City in past generations, and I marveled at how architecture is living evidence of our world’s history. After traveling around the globe, I began to wonder how we can preserve the beauty and lessons of a culture while allowing necessary development in those communities.

What was your background prior to coming to PennDesign? I received my BS in Architecture from the University of Michigan in 2009. During undergrad, I gained experience working with a community development non-profit in New Jersey and on an archeological dig in the outskirts of Rome. After graduating, I volunteered for six months building an orphanage in a rural village in Kathmandu Valley and fully immersed myself in Nepali culture by living with a host family. Upon returning to the States, I initially worked with an historic preservation firm in NYC surveying a Quaker town hall built in 1860, and then spent the last two years working at Cook+Fox Architects—a leading firm that effectively embraces the convergence of historic preservation and environmental sustainability.

Why did you choose Penn? One of the reasons I chose Penn is the people: the nurturing professors, the accessible staff and the welcoming students. The quality of work produced and the caliber of resources at the School are also hard to beat. Specifically to my program, the department’s all-inclusive approach to preservation made my decision easy – students are encouraged to follow their particular interests while still receiving the foundation to be successful in the field at large.

What are you learning right now that will help you in the future?Everything! My education at Penn will directly impact my career. I appreciate how the program is both theoretical and practical.

What do you like best about Philadelphia? I love how accessible the city is: walking and biking everywhere and finding hidden gems like delicious food, alleys filled with water features, and beautiful murals.

What are your career ambitions? I want to pursue a career uniting historic preservation with environmental sustainability in an administrative capacity. I believe strongly that these social movements, both of which foster individual and communal well-being, are twin facets of holistic stewardship.

Rachel can be reached at risacoff@design.upenn.edu.


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