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Research buildings  

Last Updated: Feb 12, 2016 URL: http://library.sciarc.libguides.com/researchingbuildings Print Guide

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Researching buildings

 IF YOU DON”T REALLY KNOW ANYTHING (A TYPICAL BEGINNING)

Starting with fragmentary data—a description, a location, a name—you want drawings (plans, sections, details), photographs, and critical analyses of your building.

What you want, in general, you will not find online; you need to locate them in books and magazines.

Your fragmentary data first needs to be confirmed and amplified; you need to determine basic building information:

THE PERSON         Who designed it?    

THE PERIOD          When? If it was built, when was it completed?       

THE PLACE            If it was built, where is it?

 

SEARCH THE AVERY DATABASE

Besides locating relevant magazine articles, the Avery Index citations provide basic building information such as designer name and location. Use multiple keywords to focus your search.

 

LOOK IN A COMPREHENSIVE ARCHITECTURAL REFERENCE

Oxford Reference Online - Oxford Reference is the home of Oxford’s quality reference publishing, bringing together over 2 million entries, many of which are illustrated, into a single cross-searchable resource.

Banister-Fletcher’s a history of architecture, 20th ed., Reference-NA200.F63 1998

The Dictionary of Art, Reference-N31.D5 1996

 

Typical problem: a building without documents

It is sad but true that most of the structures in this world are built, used, grow old and vanish without a single document remaining to note they ever were. Even famous landmarks can have surprisingly thin literatures. But if the architectural press is negligent, the forces of government and commerce are not.

For under-documented structures explore city government departments connected with building permits, planning, engineering and safety. Often they have copies of construction documents on file and other records that reveal a structure’s history.

Sanborn Maps,. The Sanborn corporation has documented buildings for insurance purposes for decades; they are the standard source of building footprint maps. You can download gif-format files of California Sanborns via this LA Public Library website. You need your library card i.d. number to access. For non-California Sanborns, click here

For under-documented structures explore city government departments connected with building permits, planning, engineering and safety. Often they have copies of construction documents on file and other records that reveal a structure’s history. You’ll need to know the street name and number, and perhaps the assessor’s parcel number.

Los Angeles Building & Safety Records

Santa Monica Building & Safety

 

Typical problem: documents without a building

Many designs are significant in the history of architecture despite the fact that no building was ever built after them. And similarly, many historically significant structures that were built are no longer extant. For us, today, these buildings exist exclusively in the form of documents and present special problems in research. Be aware that the total body of documentation on such a building might consist of a single drawing, or a verbal description. This makes the task of interpretation and evaluation difficult. Search the indexes for the most recent critical discussions of the structure.

 

Similarly, it is necessary to maintain critical vigilance when ruins or other physical evidence for a built structure exists. Compare reconstructions critically. Don’t rely on a single source, but consult a range of disciplines: anthropology, architectural history, archaeology, history. 

 

Use caution with building names

PEOPLE & PLACES HAVE NAMES, BUT DO BUILDINGS?

Beware of building names. You may encounter a building referred to by the name of the designer, the name of the client, the name of the current owner, the name of a past owner, a nickname, etc. When researching your building, stick to more certainly-fixed names like those of the designer and the building’s location.

Suggest resources for this page

Get oriented

It 's OK to begin research with only a vague idea of what you are looking for! Use encyclopedias, dictionaries and standard reference works to clarify terms, and get a quick overview of the important issues of your topic.

  • Oxford Reference Online
    The ideal place to start research: one-stop searching of hundreds of specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias in history, humanities and the sciences

Locate articles

Print magazines are still the best source for the images of contemporary architecture--especially for finding line art, plans, sections, and details. The Kappe Library maintains 100 print subscriptions; selected current issues are in the browsing area display rack. Other titles are available on request from staff. A collection of over 3000 volumes of back issues is arranged in the stacks in alpha order by title. See Periodicals In The Collection for a complete inventory of the print magazine volumes.

Locate books

Whatever library catalog you're using, always check the Holdings status of a book you are interested in. At the Kappe Library, books may be available, checked out, or held on reserve. If a book is checked out you can reserve it. Use your SCI-Arc i.d. number as username and also PIN. You will be notified by e-mail when the book is available.

  • The Kappe Library catalog
    Complete guide to the print-book collection, plus links to e-book collections
  • Los Angeles Public Library system
    One of the largest municipal library systems in the world. Have books from any of 72 branch libraries delivered to the one nearest you.
  • WorldCat
    WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services. Search many libraries at once for an item and then locate it in a library nearby. Please note: SCI-Arc doesn't provide interlibrary loan services.

Access e-articles

The following databases provide instant access to over 100 years' worth of articles from a wide variety of academic and popular magazines. SCI-Arc access to these databases is restricted to on-campus computers accessing the internet via SCI-Arc's IP address.

  • ArtSource (via Ebsco)
    A digital archive of magazine articles in the visual arts, architecture and many specialized crafts and trades. PDF articles have illustrations, HTML articles are text-only.
  • JStor
    A digital archive of almost two million articles from over 700 scholarly journals. About 4000 institutions and 500 publishers participate
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic
    The most comprehensive source for full-text international newspaper and magazine articles

Access e-books

To activate full functionality, these e-book databases typically require each user to create an individual user account--only a valid e-mail address is required. SCI-Arc access to these databases is restricted to on-campus computers accessing the internet via SCI-Arc's IP address.

  • Ebrary
    An online service providing access to over 60,000 e-books from over 425 publishers, including MIT and Princeton Architectural Press. You can also access these e-books through this catalog.
  • SpringerLink e-books
    A web shelf of e-books from the publisher Springer. Only items marked with a green rectangle are accessible
  • Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Authoritative articles on essential topics and thinkers, presented clearly and concisely

Access e-images

SCI-Arc access to these databases is restricted to on-campus computers accessing the internet via SCI-Arc's IP address.

  • ArtStor image database
    A digital library of images of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences. It also provides software to view and present these images for research and teaching within copyright restrictions
  • ArchiVision Digital Research Library
    Over 60,000 images of architecture, archaeological sites, gardens, parks and works of art.
  • Oxford Art Online
    Continuously-updated authoritative information on world visual arts based on the 34-volume Grove Dictionary of Art
  • Art Museum Image Gallery (via Ebsco)
    An image database of art and related multimedia gathered from the collections of distinguished museums around the world, including the Louvre, the British Museum, the Hermitage, the National Anthropological Museum of Mexico, and the Library of Congress
  • Associated Press images
    Up to the minute & essential historical photographs for download
  • Catalog of Art Museum Images Online
    An image database of works of fine and decorative art from leading museums around the world (including LACMA) from 3000 BCE to the present.

Access video

Map it

SCI-Arc access to this database is restricted to on-campus computers accessing the internet via SCI-Arc's IP address.

  • Simply Map
    An online tool to help create thematic maps based on vast demographic, business and marketing data

Research materials

SCI-Arc access to this database is restricted to on-campus computers accessing the internet via SCI-Arc's IP address.

  • Material ConneXion
    A searchable database of information about new materials selected from a wide range of industries
 

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