Heriberto J. Brito
Photo courtesy SCAD
Heriberto J. Brito

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which has a notable track record in historic preservation, has picked a like-minded designer to head its architecture program.

In June, architect Heriberto J. Brito became the dean of SCAD’s School of Building Arts, replacing Brian Wishne, who stepped down after two years.

For his new job, Brito relocated from Miami, where he taught at Miami International University of Art and Design while running his 20-year-old practice, Brito LLC, which specializes in historic rehabs. That two-employee practice has relocated with him.

Wishne, meanwhile, becomes chair of SCAD’s urban design department, which is part of the Buildings Arts school.

Assuming the deanship marks a return to Savannah for Brito, a former teacher at SCAD who created the historic preservation program for the school’s opening in 1979. Today, the Building Arts school, which enrolls 1,000 of SCAD’s 10,000 students, now grants bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, historic preservation, interior design and urban design. SCAD, which also has campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, also offers an unusual master’s in international preservation.

From 1979 to 1982, Brito also served as Savannah’s first preservation planner, while SCAD began revitalizing its surrounding blocks. Today, of the 63 buildings that make up SCAD’s Savannah campus, 60 are repurposed structures, like a warehouse, hospital and nunnery. “Way back when, I thought this city was the perfect laboratory for historic design,” Brito says, “and I still think you can’t get any better than this.”

Indeed, students frequently tackle local rehab projects as part of their coursework, which can only increase with a dedicated preservationist at the helm of the architecture program, says Daniel Carey, president of the Historic Savannah Foundation, which has saved 350 buildings over 55 years but still sees work to do.

Brito’s “been here a couple weeks, and he’s already sought me out,” Carey says. “This is absolutely a good thing.”