Category Archives: Architecture

Building for Tomorrow: Collaborative Development of Sustainable Infrastructure for Architectural and Design Documentation

Ann Baird Whiteside
Frances Loeb Library, Harvard GSD

Since the introduction of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software in the 1960s, industries that design and develop our built environment have been moving from pencil and paper to computers and digital files. The earliest adopters of the new technology were industries like aerospace and automotive, and since then the fields of architecture and design have been enthusiastic adopters. CAD has allowed architects to take previously unimaginable risks in their designs, and to experiment with new forms and materials without the need of building prototypes or performing expensive structural analyses until much later in the process.

Architectural museums and archives are faced with a rapidly growing need to preserve digital information and are grappling with the need for technological tools, technical expertise in digital preservation, AutoCAD expertise, archival expertise, and the need for repositories that can preserve and disseminate the archived data.

The use of 2D and 3D CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM) software is now routine in architecture and design firms. The contractual deliverable has shifted from printed, wet-signed and wet-stamped drawing sets to an electronically signed model that can be manipulated to achieve equal, if not more, granular information than the traditional printed plans.

Many types of digital files produced during design and construction that are important for long-term preservation for future renovations/restorations and scholarly research.

  • 3D CAD models
  • hundreds or thousands of detailed 2D layer drawings
  • 3D printed objects
  • project “out-puts” – for example, drawings or sketches of the building.
  • photographs and videos
  • websites about the building
  • BIMs
  • communications among architects, clients, contractors and other parties

Over the last five years, we are seeing that students in architecture and design schools are further routinely using CAD for modelling, skipping the 2D drawing process entirely, meaning that the coming generation of architects will be only producing documentation in 3D models, providing more urgency to the problem of preserving this type of documentation.

The impact of this on the record of architectural innovation and practice –in architecture libraries, archives, museums, among others–is only beginning to be appreciated. No longer can libraries acquire blueprints or drawings, a few images, and a scale model or two, to represent a major work of architecture in their collections. Now they must acquire the 3D CAD models and 2D drawing files, Building Information Models (BIM), digital images, videos and documents, all delivered on a computer hard drive often with no annotation whatsoever. No library or archive is currently prepared for this new reality, but they are increasingly under pressure to figure out how to acquire these 21st century collections, to support the next generation of architectural students and historians.

The Frances Loeb Library at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design received an IMLS National Forum Grant under the National Digital Platform funding priority to support two meetings of engaged stakeholders – architects, architectural historians, archivists, librarians, technologists, digital preservationists, and others who will frame a national/international collaborative infrastructure to support long-term preservation of digital design data. The first meeting will place on April 17th and 18th, 2018 and will provide a venue for the diverse group of stakeholders to think collaboratively about the issues in preserving architectural design data, to find alignments across communities, and to identify the needs required to develop an infrastructure to support archiving of digital design information that will be usable by a variety of types and sizes of architectural museums and archives.

There has been considerable work in this arena over the last five years, and in 2018 there have been three Summits, Symposia, and workshops already that have set the stage for the Forum in April.

Society of American Archivists Design Records Section CAD/BIM Task Force

The Design Records Section Task Force has produced some critical information for the community to help us understand how practitioners, firms, and archives are managing digital content.

Designing the Future Landscape: Digital Architecture, Design and Engineering Assets Symposium, November, 2017

This event brought together a wide variety of stakeholders to discuss the issues we face when preserving digital design records. The report has just been made publicly available and can be found here: A Report on the Architecture, Design and Engineering Summit

Community Standards for 3D data preservation, February, 2018

3D/VR Creation and Curation in Higher Education, March, 2018

Building for Tomorrow: Collaborative Development of Sustainable Infrastructure for Architectural and Design Documentation

CalArchNet Group

By Aimee Lind, Getty Research Institute

Founded in 2016 by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Director of Special Collections Jessica Holada and Getty Research Institute librarian Aimee Lind, CalArchNet (pronounced Cal-Ark-Net) was conceived as a means to foster dialogue and collaboration among librarians, archivists, and curators at California institutions that house architecture archives. CalArchNet provides a twice-yearly forum for this specialized group of professionals to learn more about California architecture, understand the ways California architecture records are used, share information and expertise, seek advice, build a community committed to standard practices that improve operations and services, and bring greater visibility to collections and programs.

October 27th, 2017 marked the third meeting of CalArchNet, held at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Architecture and Design Center, with representatives from thirteen California institutions in attendance. Topics discussed included historic site preservation research methodology, leveraging statewide resources to enhance discovery of collections, security considerations, GIS mapping technologies, and the use of linked open data to make connections between collections. The day concluded with a curator-led tour of the exhibition Albert Frey and Lina Bo Bardi: A Search for Living Architecture.

If you’re an archivist, librarian, or curator working with architecture archives in California and would like to become involved with CalArchNet, email or check our website for more information. The next CalArchNet meeting is scheduled for March 30th, 2018 at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Architectural Drawings of a Railway Company

By Bonnie Reed

Last spring I completed a review of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway architectural drawings archived at the Texas Tech Southwest Collection. This research project was precipitated by a comment made by a professor on the difficulty of locating architectural drawings for some historical structures. My original impression was that most of the drawings in this collection were of depots; however, I found drawings of a great variety of railroad and community structures, including the historical structure that initiated my research quest.

The charter for the Atchison Topeka Railroad was drafted in 1859. The company changed the name to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1863. As with the other railroads, train tracks were laid in wilderness areas or land settled by ranchers and farmers, whose homesteads were miles from each other. The depots allowed the ranchers and farmers to send their products to market and for pioneers to obtain supplies. The railroad served as a reliable, convenient, and safe method for travel across the continent.

From the railroad depots, small towns sprang up. The depot of any given town served as a center of activity, where news arrived by telegraph, and where locals and visitors traveled to and from the small town. As the community grew around the train station, structures related to the maintenance of a railway were required. Businesses opened to answer the needs of the settlers in the towns and the travelers passing through. These towns soon required community structures, so hotels and general stores were built.

As expected, the AT&SF maintained depots strategically along the primary and secondary routes. For the rural towns, these depots were combination stations for both passengers and freight. Larger cities required separate passenger and freight structures.

The AT&SF architectural drawings offer an interesting glimpse into the types of structures required for running a railway throughout a largely unpopulated swath of land primarily in the Midwest and Southwest. The railway required structures for the foreman’s office, file rooms, supply and lavatory buildings, locker rooms, blacksmith shops, welding shops, storage sheds, and buildings for the car inspectors and coach cleaning. The AT&SF collection includes drawings for numerous types of power and boiler houses. Larger railroad compounds included round houses, large round structures with turntables used for repairing locomotives, in addition to car repair and machine shops, and engine houses. Drawings for other maintenance structures were designed for waste refuse, water treatment, and paint and carpenter shops. Drawings included those for railroad platforms to receive passengers and the mail. The AT&SF collection also includes an architectural drawing for an apprentice school.

The headquarters for the AT&SF was in Chicago. The collection includes numerous drawings for the remodel and decorating of the vice president and executive offices within the Railroad Exchange Building. Additional drawings include yard office and storage facilities.


Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The depot at Panhandle, Texas is a good example a combination depot. The depot was designed by E. A. Harrison in Chicago, in June 1927. The floor plan shows the basic arrangement, with one side of the long structure restricted to freight, while the other side includes an office, baggage room, express room, platform, and boiler room (Sheet 1/7). This architectural drawing reflects the United States’ history of racial prejudice and segregation. While there is a large general waiting room, there are separate waiting rooms with bathroom facilities for men, women, and African Americans (labeled Negro).

Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)
Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)

The elevations of the depot on Sheet 2/7 also include both the front, back, and side elevations. This drawing includes architectural details.

AT&SF & Community

The AT&SF was involved with a surprising number of structures not directly related to the daily operation and maintenance of the railroad. The structures supported the daily life of the workmen, as well as the passengers and the community. Some of the drawings are additions and/or alterations to existing buildings created by the company that required expansion. To support the growing number of settlers and travelers going West, these structures included bunk houses for the workmen, lunchrooms, reading rooms, commissaries, laundries, recreation halls, and hotels.

It is commonly known that Fred Harvey and his descendants worked with the AT&SF to offer lunches served at the Harvey Houses by the Harvey Girls. Some of the drawings produced by the AT&SF were created for the Fred Harvey Company, including lunchrooms, creameries, hotels, and cafeteria-camper lodge buildings. Architectural drawings of the Harvey Houses are included in the collection.


Within this collection are architectural drawings of buildings in a small town named Slaton, Texas, located just southeast of Lubbock. In May an architecture professor and I took the short trip to have lunch at the Slaton Harvey House. We received a tour with stories by the daughter of a former Harvey Girl. While the AT&SF architectural drawing collection does not include the drawings for the Slaton Harvey House, the collection has drawings of the surrounding structures, including the reading room, heating house, and round house. The Slaton Harvey House still stands, but the AT&SF structures for which we have the drawings have long since been demolished.

Slaton Reading Room Elevations & Details (Sheet 2)

The railway maintained reading rooms that served as the all-around resource for their workers at the end of the work shift, as a place to bathe, sleep, read, and wait for the next returning train home. In addition to magazines and books, the reading rooms offered exercise opportunities and wholesome entertainment. The reading rooms also served as places for educational lectures and performance entertainment for the workers, their families, and sometimes the community. Accordingly, each reading room was maintained by a librarian.

The Slaton Reading Room was designed by C.Y. Morse and built in 1912. The collection includes seven drawings of the structure. Architectural drawing includes both front, rear, and side elevations, along with interior details of the staircase and counter (Sheet 2/7).

Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The building floor plan (Sheet 1/7) offers the arrangement of the first floor with rooms assigned to specific activities: billiards, cards and reading. The librarian’s living quarters has a kitchen, bedroom, and private stairs to the librarian’s basement with a laundry tub. The basement also has the public bath and boiler room. The second floor has 18 possible bedrooms and two baths, one with laundry tub and a linen closet. Each floor includes a veranda that extends the length of the facade. The set includes five drawings of interior and exterior details, including windows, doors, and counters. The drawings were completed in Topeka.


Rest House at Hermit's Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)
Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)

Plans for the Rest House on Hermit’s Rim at the Grand Canyon is a set of six architectural drawings produced in Chicago and dated May 9, 1914. The elevation for the structure includes both the facade and the fireplace (Sheet 3/6). In addition to the massive fireplace, caretaker’s cottage and kitchenette, the floor plan includes the layout for the porch, pillars, and stone wall at the facade (Sheet 1/6). The unique quality of the structure can be seen in the roof made of rock stone, concrete, and wood (Sheet 2, not seen here).

Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The drawings for the Rest House were created by AT&SF for the Fred Harvey Company. While the architect’s name is not given on the drawings, it is known that Mary Colter worked for the Fred Harvey Company and that she is the architect of record. The drawing includes additional elevations, sections, and details.

Other Harvey Facilities

In addition to newly designed structures, the collection includes drawings for alteration and additions to the Harvey House in Barstow, California, as well as additions to the Harvey House in Gallup, New Mexico, and alterations to the Harvey House in Amarillo, Texas. The collection includes drawings for the remodel of a Harvey House in Hutchison, Kansas. The AT&SF also prepared drawings for the Fred Harvey Company for a creamery in Las Vegas, New Mexico and a sandwich packing room in Newton, Kansas.

The AT&SF Railway also produced drawings for additions and/or alterations for hotels in Gallup, New Mexico and Williams, Arizona. In addition, the collection includes drawings for the alteration, remodeling, and additions to the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque and plans for the dining room at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. For the Grand Canyon, there are drawings for a remodeling of the cafeteria-campers lodge building.


It is unknown how many structures were built from these drawings and if these drawings were the final version used to build or renovate existing structures. We do know that photographs of some of the architecture constructed from these drawings may be found in archives around the country. Photographs of buildings that were designed and constructed for AT&SF, including those from architectural drawings in the Texas Tech Southwest Collection, can be found online at the Kansas Memory website:

The Southwest Collection has just begun to digitize the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe collection; a few drawings are currently available for viewing at the following website:


Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company: An Inventory of Its Records, 1905-1973. Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University.

Berke, Arnold. Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Bray, Frank Chapin. “Social Centers for Railroad Men.” The Chautauquan 39:4 (June 1904) 865-867.

Bryant, Keith L. Jr. History of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.

Grant, H. Roger and Charles W. Bohi. The Country Railroad Station in America. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company 1978.

Kansas Memory website: (accessed 11.25.2014)

Latimer, Rosa Walston. Harvey Houses of Texas: Historic Hospitality from the Gulf to the Panhandle. Charleston: History Press, 2014.

Weigle, Marta Babcock, Barbara A. The Great Southwest of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railway. Phoenix: The Herd Museum, 1996.

Riskin, Marci L. The Train Stops Here: New Mexico’s Railway Legacy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

A radical resurgence in print periodicals: Archizines

By Kathy Edwards, Research & Collection Development Librarian, Emery A. Gunnin Architecture Library, Clemson University

Last year a young architecture professor came into my office in Clemson University’s Gunnin Architecture Library to request that we subscribe to two new periodicals: CLOG and Pidgin. Both are architectural ‘zines published only in print. CLOG, founded by independent young architects, critics and bloggers, began publication in October 2011; Pidgin has been produced by graduate students at Princeton University’s School of Architecture since 2006.

My usual response to faculty requests is, “Of course–I’ll do that today.” This time I hedged and considered twice before forwarding a request for CLOG (but not Pidgin) to our acquisitions director. Architecture librarians will best understand why my reaction in this instance was…complicated. My hesitation wasn’t over Pidgin’s annoying lack of a subscription model, nor CLOG’s equally annoying disregard, in recent issues, for basic bibliographic conventions.* The real bogeyman is the P word: Like many of you, I face persistent pressure from Higher-Ups to do away with print serials subscriptions.

Of Clemson Libraries’ 45,000+ current periodicals subscriptions, some 200 are titles available only in print. More than half of these come to my branch library, home to collections supporting art, architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, real estate development, historic preservation, and construction science & management. The most recent nudge from On High to divest of more print came four weeks ago, in the form of a spreadsheet from our new Collections Management team listing 27 print magazine and journal titles on our current periodicals shelves that happen also to be available online via commercial aggregators. With the spreadsheet came the request that I indicate which print titles to cancel, based on this apparent ‘duplication’. At Clemson, subject liaisons routinely weed periodical holdings based on full-content duplication in JSTOR or Project Muse, but until now we have never been asked to cut print subscriptions based on online offerings in aggregated commercial packages.

Uncomfortable with this request, I sent the list out to faculty members for input and used their responses as basis for retaining all but one of the print subscriptions. I suspect, however, that faculty insistence will not carry the day for very long.

Prisons, pg. 70

In the last decade, electronic formats have completely transformed information delivery and access across most academic disciplines, in some disciplines (engineering, chemistry, physics) displacing print entirely. This technological transformation of the information landscape has altered not just the expectations of those seeking access to these resources, but also attitudes and practices within the library profession itself. In a nutshell, print–for all manner of publications but particularly as a format for journals and magazines–is becoming harder and harder to sustain or defend. Most of us can readily recite the reasons for this:

From a user’s perspective, stuff in print is downright inconvenient: you have to go to a library to get it, once in your possession you have to keep track of it and protect it from harm, you can have it only for a limited time, if you want an image out of it you need access to a scanner, and once you’re done with it you have to return it or face stringent fines. Only one person at a time can use a given issue, and if the issue you want is in offsite storage there’s a request form to fill out, along with that whole delayed-gratification thing Millennials don’t handle very well (it goes against expectations). Worse, what if you wait for it only to discover it wasn’t what you’d hoped for or needed? Some titles may even be library-use-only, yet few academic libraries can afford to be open 24/7, and what about students in programs abroad, or faculty on sabbatical? Anyone without ready access to the library is out of luck, unless offsite delivery is an option–where that’s feasible.

Compare all these negatives to the wonderful world of electronic ‘get-it-now from anywhere at any time’. Conclusion: print is passé.

Prisions, pg. 53
Prisions, pg. 53

From the library’s perspective, stuff in print requires effort: mail room and acquisitions staff, catalogers, and circulation staff physically track, handle, label, stamp, transfer, and shelve each individual issue. When it comes time to bind accumulated issues of retained titles, all of this handling is repeated in reverse, after which a new item–the bound volume–returns along the same hand-to-hand chain.

Stuff in print takes up more than its fair share of space: first on specialized periodical display shelves, which can’t be used for much else; then in the stacks until enough volumes accumulate to send some off to a remote storage facility which is, all too often, already stuffed to the rafters.

Stuff in print continues to cost money long past the date of receipt: Binding has to be budgeted for, as do transport, storage, re-cataloging, and reshelving. Print means more processing, materials, real estate, and staff time.

Finally, for libraries, stuff in print represents pressure on a service provision workflow increasingly constricted by staff reductions and crimped budgets.

Given that a significant number of important architecture and art periodicals remain available only in print, it is no wonder that collection managers bring this divest-of-print pressure to bear on the stewards of design collections.

Yet print as a format does have its avid defenders, for all kinds of reasons variously legitimate, radically disruptive, or downright fuddy-duddy:

Compared to e-formats print is relatively ‘permanent’; it affords portability independent of electronics and network restrictions or malfunctions; image quality is often superior; readability is definitely superior; for a good deal of the population print is a deeply ingrained information medium; and print inherently adds value by presenting information in context, providing opportunities for serendipitous discoveries–something many educators consider fundamental to active learning and the creation of new knowledge.

Banners defending print’s virtues are hoisted most often (but not exclusively) by readers, scholars, and designers educated before the Great Digital Revolution.

Who would have guessed, then, that the last five years or so would bring a resurgence of print as a medium for documenting, challenging, even provoking design ideas. This rising tide–in the form of ‘little magazines’ with big and often radical ambitions–is taking on the proportions of a Movement, a global yet decentralized agitprop bent on shaking up professional norms, commercial mediocrity, architectural clichés, and the Internet’s “hot new project as twenty-second eye candy” ephemeral culture. The website, which tracks and promotes this ‘new in print’ phenomenon, currently lists and links to at least 89 recently launched titles from 26 countries across six continents, and adds new titles regularly.

CLOG is one of the best of these and certainly one of the most interesting. Its founders and principals–all young and independent professionals–are motivated by the conviction that architectural projects presented in digital forums today (whether online journalism, blogs, Twitter, image platforms, or discussion lists) rush into public view at such great speed and high volume that critical apprehension is completely undone. Observing that “mere exposure has taken the place of thoughtful engagement, not to mention a substantial discussion,” the editors proclaim the magazine’s raison d’être at the front of every issue:

CLOG slows things down. Each issue explores, from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. Succinctly, on paper, away from the distractions and imperatives on the screen.”

Ink on paper as a medium, in other words, becomes both refuge and provocation–meaningful and intentional, falling back on print’s ability to fix and juxtapose words and images on a two-page spread, focus attention, and ratchet the decibel level down to where engaged dialog becomes possible. Since the ‘zine launched in 2011, themed issues have explored a single firm (B.I.G.), a brand (Apple), a building type (prisons), a style (Brutalism), a city (Miami), an integral design activity (rendering), a landscape (the National Mall), an architect (Rem), a genre (sci-fi), and so on, via dense, multi-authored text more akin to a blog-tweets mashup than to conventionally presented exposition.

CLOG has proven itself significant enough to be included in the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, but its treatment there is problematic: rather than a citation for each individually authored or titled contribution in an issue (of which there are many), each issue is reduced to a single citation, defined by its theme. Without actually picking up and browsing the “Prisons” issue, then, one would have no way to know that its contributors include a former convict, two public prosecutors, architect and critic Michael Sorkin, and the artist Ai Weiwei, among more than a dozen others. Likewise individual photographs, diagrams, plans, and sketches throughout, however named and specific, are inaccessible to search except as illustrations of the overall issue theme.

Despite–and, one might argue, largely because of–the challenges this little magazine’s structure and content present to traditional indexing, CLOG is an intriguing and importantly provocative new architecture serial, and emblematic of a print resurgence that requires our attention and accommodation now. But first the vision of what architecture libraries are and should provide must continue to accommodate print serials for as long as this resurgence plays out.

*Note to CLOG publishers: Your mag is a quarterly; would it kill you to assign something as cataloger-friendly as volume or issue numbers? The year alone, and only on the back cover, doesn’t cut it.

Harnessing the Power of 3D Technologies for Library and Archives Collections

By Amy Trendler, Architecture Librarian, and Carol Street, Archivist for Architectural Records, Ball State University Libraries

Two ongoing projects in the Architecture Library and the Drawings + Documents Archive at Ball State University are making use of new technologies to augment the collections, engage the students, and raise the profile of these branch operations of the University Libraries. Physically located in the College of Architecture and Planning’s Architecture Building on campus, the library and archive are well-situated to provide collections and services to the students and faculty members who make up their primary user group. As these users incorporate new technologies such as 3D modeling software and 3D printing into their projects, staff in the library and archive have sought out ways to use these same technologies to interpret the collections.

Example of a Revit file from the project featuring a bench from Keystone Ridge Designs catalog of site furnishings.
Example of a Revit file from the project featuring a bench from Keystone Ridge Designs catalog of site furnishings.

3D Modeling Software Enhances the Materials Collection

In the Architecture Library, student workers in the Visual Resources Collection (VRC) are creating files using the 3D modeling software Revit for items in the Building Material Samples Collection. Begun in 2009, the Building Material Samples Collection makes innovative and sustainable materials available to students and faculty for study purposes. Items may also be checked out for four days and taken to studio or displayed during presentations. The collection consists of more than 600 material samples for surfaces, structural or technical building components, hardscape products, and more. In addition to samples, the collection also contains product literature for materials that are too large or unwieldy for the manufacturer to produce samples.

It was the items in this last category, the ones that are too big to be samples, that were the inspiration for the VRC’s growing collection of Revit files. A student worker suggested making Revit files of these objects that users could incorporate into their 3D designs in the same way that they can use objects from the file-sharing site Revit City. The library staff immediately recognized the value in enhancing the usability of the materials collection, we were able to work out the details of storing and accessing the files, and thus the Revit project was born. Students can now download the files of street furniture, lighting, and other materials from a library server (which is password-protected for use by current university students and faculty members) and insert the objects into their projects. A jpg of each item provides a quick view; once downloaded, the Revit version of the file is fully integrated into the project and can be manipulated with the tools available in the software. If a student wants to use the file in a different program, he or she can open the file in Revit (using this software on a library computer if he or she doesn’t have a copy), save it in another CAD format, then import the file into a program such as Rhino or SketchUp.

Example of a Revit file from the project featuring a drinking fountain from Most Dependable Fountains catalog of outdoor products.
Example of a Revit file from the project featuring a drinking fountain from Most Dependable Fountains catalog of outdoor products.

The Next Phase of the Project: Surfaces

The next phase of the Revit project will see the addition of surface materials from the collection that can be applied to surfaces on a building or object in Revit. There is a range of standard materials available in Revit, but now students will be able to easily apply the unique textures and patterns of materials found on samples in the Building Material Samples Collection such as woven coconut shell panels or translucent concrete to the walls, floors, ceilings, and other surfaces in their designs. Samples of these materials are available for study in the collection, but the Revit file gives students the option of going beyond a simple material swatch and applying the material to surfaces in their designs.

Response to the Revit project from students and faculty members has been positive, and use of the files will likely only increase as the collection grows. For the library staff, the Revit project has been a great way to make the materials collection even more accessible to students. A side benefit for the student workers assigned to the project is that they are expanding and refining their Revit skills, and in the case of student assistant Susan Smith her Revit skills helped her get a summer internship at a design firm. It is especially fitting that Smith was able to capitalize on her involvement in the Revit project because the project was her idea in the first place. “I was inspired to suggest the project because I thought it would be a great way to attract students into the VRC,” she said. “[I hope] students will see it as an opportunity to utilize the library’s material resources in a format they can actually incorporate into their projects.”

Wysor Grand Opera House 3D rendering (2014) and original drawing (1891). Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.
Wysor Grand Opera House 3D rendering (2014) and original drawing (1891). Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.

3D Applications in the Archive

A similar project at the Drawings + Documents Archive has garnered interest for its use of 3D prints to bring a long-lost 19th century building to life. The archive, begun shortly after the College of Architecture and Planning opened in 1966, collects, preserves, and provides access to records of Indiana’s built environment. Collections are used to support undergraduate and graduate student learning in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and historic preservation. The students in the latter group, historic preservation, naturally gravitate toward the materials in the archives and readily grasp their usefulness for course assignments. It became apparent that students from the more technology-driven fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and planning would benefit from interpreting the collections in an interesting, technologically-centric way that brought the focus back to the original drawings. Thus, printing models from the drawings was born out of this desire to present the collections to students in a new way and spark their interest in archival materials.

3D modeling process for column with wrought iron ornamentation and cast iron balcony railing, 2014. Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.
3D modeling process for column with wrought iron ornamentation and cast iron balcony railing, 2014. Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.

The Indiana Architecture X 3D (IAx3D) project began in fall 2013 with a set of archival drawings for a local building with an interesting history. The Wysor Grand Opera House was built in downtown Muncie, Indiana, by the architect Henry W. Matson in 1891. This impressive Romanesque Revival opera house exemplified the architectural exuberance and rapid growth during the area’s natural gas boom that inspired numerous factories and businesses, including the famous Ball Brothers Company, to relocate to Muncie. The building’s history follows the changing fortunes and tastes of the city by undergoing renovations to become a popular movie theater in the 1920s that later lost business when other theaters opened outside of the declining downtown. The building was torn down in 1967, during a period of urban renewal that students today still try to comprehend.

The Wysor Grand Opera House’s history, as well as the archive’s set of high-quality, ink on linen drawings, makes this building a great discussion starter for many class visits to the archive. For these reasons it seemed an ideal candidate for launching the IAX3D project. Architecture department graduate assistants assigned to the archive used digital scans of the linen drawings, first working with elements such as columns and wrought iron railings on the detail sheets, to create underlays in the program Rhino. On top of these, they traced over the lines to create baselines and used program tools to create volumes and surfaces. The process of converting irregular hand-drawn lines to smooth computer-generated forms proved challenging to the students working on the project, but it also increased their appreciation of the original drawings. Graduate assistant Austin Pontius remarked that as hard as it was to trace some of the drawings for the intricate ironwork, he was impressed that someone had drawn it by hand over 100 years ago.

Digital Media Repository screenshot for column with wrought iron ornamentation and cast iron balcony railing, 2014. Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.
Digital Media Repository screenshot for column with wrought iron ornamentation and cast iron balcony railing, 2014. Indiana Architecture X 3D, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University Libraries.

Over the first year of the project, nine Wysor Grand Opera House details have been printed and the entire building has been modeled but not printed at this time. The entire collection is available online at the University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository. Each entry in the collection contains an object (OBJ) file to allow easy, computer mouse enabled manipulation of the 3D rendering for anyone with an adequate browser. The original drawing sheet from which that detail originated is pictured below the object to inspire comparisons from the digital to the original. The downloadable print-ready Rhino 3D model file (3DM) is available in the metadata in case patrons or educators would like to make their own prints.

Student and faculty reaction to the IAX3D project has been enthusiastically positive. Because the models are created using technology many of the students use or aspire to use, students naturally gravitate toward them and begin to ask questions about the building’s history, design, or even the process of creating the models. While the 3D models could never supplant the importance of the original drawings, they do serve as a vital bridge that connects students’ current interests in 3D printing with historical materials.

Doors Open: Toronto and Beyond

By Allana Mayer

Now in its fifteenth year, and steadily adding buildings of note to its roster, Doors Open Toronto is a city-wide weekend festival that encourages architectural exploration and urban-planning discussion. Public and private locations open their doors to the public; special events include lectures, walking tours, and a photography contest; everything is free.

France lays claim to founding “La Journee Portes Ouvertes” in 1984, but Doors Open events are now popular all over the world. Toronto is inordinately proud of its participation, claiming to be the first in North America. The events themselves are not governed by any sort of international Doors Open committee; participation is entirely self-proclaimed — and can range from small towns and municipalities, to province-wide affairs, to entire countries.

Bridgepoint Hospital expansion, left, on the former Don Jail, right. Photo courtesy of Doors Open Toronto.

The mandate being vague (often billed only as “a celebration”), sometimes the purpose of Doors Open events can be obscure. In Toronto, it provides all of: exclusive access to private spaces; guided tours for public spaces; special events and discussions; outreach opportunities for little-utilized public services; and promotional opportunities for new buildings and services. Of the former in recent years, crowd favourites have been tours of the Historic Don Jail (before its renovation into the Bridgepoint Hospital), the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, the Russell Carhouse (for maintaining Toronto’s iconic red streetcars), and the long-abandoned Crystal Ballroom at the King Edward Hotel.

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. Photo courtesy Doors Open Toronto.

The philosophical underpinning of the event is, in essence, democratization: making private spaces public, and increasing knowledge about public spaces. This can be interpreted in a number of ways: is the experience of visiting a participating site about the architecture found there, or to learn architectural history generally, or just to see what might not normally be seen? The online directory describes the buildings by year of construction, style, and building function, and there is a short summary of the experience on offer, so tourists can tailor the weekend to their particular interests. Often tours will include a bit of everything: the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, for example, showcased both the renovations of their historic house (from 1858) and the history of the organization, as well as their ongoing exhibits and collections.

(Notable about Doors Open Toronto is their release of data-sets through Open Data Toronto: while they don’t produce a festival app every year, their data are free for developers to work with, and they actively encourage third-party apps for maps and festival guides.)

As more locations across the world join in the tradition, we can predict an upswing in citizen-scholars, casual architecture and heritage discussions, and new and innovative entries into built-heritage events and initiatives.

Of particular interest to architecture librarians and archivists will be opportunities to capitalize on or help coordinate these events. There are plenty of ways to communicate with organizing bodies in your area, to offer expertise and perform outreach, or to feature your collections, exhibits, and resources. In Toronto, the city and provincial archives organize showcases adhering to both the yearly theme and the interests of architecture and urban-planning enthusiasts: maps, land deeds, floor plans, news clippings, and vintage photographs.

Inside the Toronto Archives. Photo courtesy of Doors Open Toronto.

Toronto’s populist theme for this year focused on ghost stories, mysterious disappearances, and supernatural experiences throughout the city. However, there were plenty of recently-completed entrants in the festival, with no such stories to share.

New buildings of particular note to heritage aficionados include the Toronto International Film Festival Centre (and its TIFF Film Reference Library), and the new Archives Ontario headquarters at York University. These three examples of modern architectural work complement Toronto’s recent wave of cultural-heritage renovation (most notably the addition of the Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal to the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Gehry redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario).

The new Archives Ontario building at York University. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A number of speaking events included a lightning-round session of architects, urban planners, and artists discussing Toronto-specific projects and issues. While some designers took this opportunity to showboat their portfolios, many chose to delve deep into particular problems or overarching theories.

The very first presentation spoke to ideas of heritage and preservation, and how to make time for the past in heady, forward-thinking days; another presentation simply urged audience members to change their thinking from “When will the Gardiner Expressway [an elevated highway dividing most of downtown Toronto from the shore of Lake Ontario] finally be torn down?” to “How soon can we make it happen?”

The crumbling Gardiner Expressway. Photo courtesy of CBC.

Amidst all this activity, the question remains: How do these participatory events change people’s knowledge of and interaction with our urban spaces? Or is the focus on architecture a sort of ruse for generalized PR opportunities, billed as educational but merely passive tourism? Of course promoting access and use of resources is both economically and socially beneficial, whether public or private; the question is whether people stay engaged after the weekend’s events.

The statistic I have to offer here is, unfortunately, unsourceable: an archivist for the Toronto Archives mentioned in conversation to me that they see about 800 new visitors every year due to Doors Open — “new” meaning people who would likely have never set foot inside their institution otherwise. Besides being an argument for better metrics for cultural heritage institutions and events, it is hard to conclude the festival’s success in promoting education and participation. I’ve been hard-pressed to find online discussion of the lightning session, for example, even though the room was packed and plenty of audience members asked questions.

There is a fantastic opportunity for scholarly and popular studies on how the public interprets and engages with architecture, and how those interactions change with new programming such as Doors Open (much like the opportunity to study engagement with libraries). I, and many other cultural heritage professionals, am curious (and grossly under-informed) as to where the line gets drawn between architects who create new work and those who work for restoration and protection of existing buildings. Where cultural-heritage and built-heritage discussions cross over and converge must necessarily be a discussion for another time.

Inside Modern Texas

By Martha Gonzalez


Last April, during the Society of Architectural Historians 2014 Annual Conference held in Austin, the Architecture & Planning Library at The University of Texas at Austin opened “Inside Modern Texas: The Case for Preserving Interiors.” This exhibition offers insight on interior design during the period 1945 to 1975, touching upon the development of the profession and the issues faced today in historic preservation. Texas interiors from this period serve as case studies to illustrate emerging ideas in design and practice.

Emily Ardoin, a Historic Preservation graduate student, curated the exhibit through a new program that offers opportunities to School of Architecture graduate students to gain experience in research and curation using materials from the Alexander Architectural Archives and the Special Collections of the Architecture & Planning Library. “Inside Texas” includes photographs, original drawings and printed materials from these collections featuring architects and interior designers active in Texas such as George L. Dahl, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Karl Kamrath, Howard R. Meyer and John Astin Perkins.

Emily Ardoin at the opening of "Inside Texas"
Emily Ardoin at the opening of “Inside Texas”

Mid-twentieth-century buildings are gaining widespread acceptance as candidates for historic preservation, but few retain their original modern interiors. Because they are so closely connected to human activity, interiors can be especially important conveyors of historic significance, but they are highly vulnerable to changing tastes and functional requirements. The perceived impermanent nature of interior design components, and historic preservation legislation which often focuses on building exteriors, further complicates preservation efforts.

Repositories such as the Alexander Architectural Archive and the Architecture & Planning Library provide opportunities to study the history of design because they preserve historic documentation of interiors. In this case, these materials allowed Emily to create a window in to the richness of modern interiors across Texas.






Taking Stock of 3D Printing

By Hannah Bennett


Make anything you want just by pressing print.     – YouTube Video

I think we all know the following about 3D printing: it’s a technology from the 1980s; it’s also known as additive manufacturing; its initial primary use was prototyping, especially in the engineering and aerospace industries. Here’s what we know it does: it turns 3D model designs (CAD files usually) into solid objects on demand. The material (traditionally plastic) is layered in an additive process through an extruder which is mounted on a carriage (not unlike a regular printer carriage) that moves on all three axes, building the form vertically. We also know that 3D printing has the promise of vastly improving production and manufacturing, creating more sustainable practices, and enabling incredibly precise customization. Perhaps most critically, 3D printing, or bioprinting, will play an integral role in regenerative medicine, generating artificial organs such as kidneys, hearts, or even skin. It’s difficult to imagine an industry that has no feasible use for 3D printing. Hod Lipson notes, “Food printing will be to 3D printing what gaming now is to computers.” Behold: digital cuisine. Or, thanks to Dovetail’s efforts, we can print fresh fruit with their 3D printer which operates by utilizing a specific technique of molecular-gastronomy called “spherification.” Here’s how it works.

With the decrease in 3D printer prices, this sort of personal manufacturing will have wide appeal and availability which is very exciting but also brings to mind ethical or safety concerns about what will be mass-producible. For example, check out Defense Distributed; there you can read about the “wiki weapon” project, an embattled effort on the part of the programmers to provide people with the files necessary to print a gun, beginning with durable rifle receivers for the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Less polarizing but equally intriguing are projects such as Fab@Home, whose goal is to “democratize innovation” and bring personal fabrication to one’s home through 3D printing technology and open-source personal fabrication technology (see Fab@Home overview).  If you cannot come up with your own designs in programs like Google Sketch-Up, Rhino, Maya, or Blender, consult MakerBot’s Thingiverse, which offers all sorts of .stl files for the home fabricator to download and print, e.g., T-Rex showerhead, a cable organizer or a lamp. In addition, there are plenty of online communities and Meet-Up groups focused around 3D printing and design.

In terms of architecture, it is impossible to underscore the role 3D printing has had and the direction it is taking design, its functionality, and its representational language. The possibilities of digital production techniques can offer, for example, affordable housing solutions worldwide, in slums or in disaster areas, as well as looking at how digital designs can be shared and modified via the internet and new online networks.  In 2012, Softkill Design in partnership with Materialise and the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s Design Research Lab, developed the first “high-resolution” prototype of a 3D printed house, the ProtoHouse.


In the Netherlands, DUS Architects are leading an interdisciplinary project which 3D printed a canal house in full size with the KamerMaker, a large moveable 3D-printer that was developed specially for the project. The 3D Print Canal House is printed with newly developed materials derived from biobased raw materials. It is also possible to print with recycled plastics. In April of this year, Winsun New Materials, a construction firm based in Suzhou, China, has successfully built ten small-scale houses using a massive 3-D printer. According to the Wall Street Journal, Winsun says it estimates the cost of printing these homes is about half that of building them the traditional way. On a more esoteric level, 3D printing has the potential to bring the “real world” into these hypermodern biomorphic designs (and protypes) developed from any number of architectural offices. Consider MOS Architect’s Ballroom Marfa Drive-In plans or Doris Sung’s Tracheolis system which explores how rapid prototyping or three-dimensional printing can mass produce a flexible kind of concrete block system which takes the heating and cooling systems of a building directly into the blocks (rather than a forced air system). The breathability of the block is achieved by incorporating a complex cavity system that is similar to the trachea system of grasshoppers, who breathe through spiracle holes in their sides. These are but a very few in the countless number of experiments, art projects, sculptures, and installations involving 3d printing. More recently, Arup developed a 3D printing technique for structural steel.


According to Salomé Galjaard, the team leader at Arup, “by using additive manufacturing we can create lots of complex individually designed pieces far more efficiently. This has tremendous implications for reducing costs and cutting waste. But most importantly, this approach potentially enables a very sophisticated design, without the need to simplify the design in a later stage to lower costs.”

D-Shape is an extremely new robotic building system using new materials to create superior stone-like structures. This new machinery enables “full-size sandstone buildings to be made without human intervention, using a stereolithography 3D printing process that requires only sand and D-Shapes’s special inorganic binder to operate….By simply pressing the ‘enter’ key on the keypad we intend to give the architect the possibility to make buildings directly, without intermediaries who can add interpretation and realization mistakes.” The 3D technology company Inition has developed an augmented-reality iPad app that allows architects to look inside static architectural models, visualize how their building will look at night and track how wind flows around their design proposals. As a result, architects can call up a variety of information overlays that combine with the physical model.

Even taking stock of 3D printing today is a challenge. The important point to take away is that it is changing so many different fields, including architecture, incredibly quickly. We’ve also seen how 3D printing is changing how architects relate to spaces and the materials to construct them. By partnering other fields with design, such as cognitive science or biology, there is no limit to what 3D printing technology can bring to architecture.

What’s up in… Michigan?!

By Rebecca Price
Architecture, Urban Planning & Visual Resources Librarian
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Maybe it was the turn of the millennium, maybe it’s seeing landmarks of the 20th century fade and decay, or maybe it’s the communal nostalgia of thousands of baby-boomers; but whatever the cause, the last decade has brought with it a deliberate look back at the early years of  modern design in Michigan.  Although perhaps best known for automobiles and breakfast cereal, Michigan was a breeding ground of furniture, product, and architectural design throughout the mid-century modern period.

General Motors Technical Center; Eero Saarinen;
Warren, Michigan; 1949-1953. Photo by Edward Olencki, 1962.

Post-war manufacturing and the coincident economic boom brought designers and architects to the state. The Cranbrook Academy of Art, founded in 1926, was by the late 1930s attracting many notable international designers to teach including Eliel Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Carl Milles, and Charles Eames. Other architects came to teach at the University of Michigan College of Architecture or had offices in the Detroit area and still others took on corporate and residential commissions across the state resulting in works by Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Erich Mendolsohn, and Minoru Yamasaki. Furniture and design companies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase, based in western Michigan, drew many designers to their ranks, including architect George Nelson, and produced such notable works as the marshmallow sofa, the Noguchi table, and the Eames Lounge Chair (and perhaps less desirably, the cubicle or Action Office, offering flexibility and an improvement on earlier office environments).

Lafayette Towers with Pavilion Apartments; Mies van der Rohe; Detroit, 1962.
Photo by Edward Olencki, 1963.

Interest in this period was substantiated by a Preserve America grant awarded in 2008 by the National Park Service to the State Historic Preservation Office.  The award spawned Michigan Modern, whose aim is “to document and promote Michigan’s architectural and design heritage from 1940-1970” (though they soon learned that those dates were too limiting and the focus has broadened to include earlier contributions).

Michigan Consolidated Gas Company; Minoru Yamasaki;
Detroit; 1963. Photo by Edward Olencki, 1963.

Michigan Modern has an informative website rich with information about architects and designers who practiced or produced work in Michigan in the years just before WWII and up to the 1970s.  Visitors to the site can browse or search for designers and their work and will see photographs, as well as archival and bibliographic citations to guide them further in their research.  One can also download or print beautifully produced walking, biking, or driving tour guides of mid-century modern architecture in various cities in Michigan.

Michigan Modern generates an annual exhibition and symposium called Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America.  This year the symposium will be held at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids from June 19-21.

This statewide initiative is echoed by local groups, which focus their attention on mid-century modernism in their communities.  An example of this is A2modern based in Ann Arbor. The group of homeowners, architects, and enthusiasts advocates for the awareness and appreciation of modern architecture in our midst. Their website is becoming a place to document and showcase modernist architecture in the area and their outreach efforts include hosting tours and lectures for the community.

palmerhousewrightPalmer House; Frank Lloyd Wright; 1951; Ann Arbor.

baconhousebrighamBacon House; George Brigham; 1952; Ann Arbor.

refchurchbirkertsUniversity Reformed Church; Gunnar Birkerts; 1963; Ann Arbor.

Images are from the University of Michigan Art, Architecture & Engineering Library Digital Image Collection. Contact for more information.

Beyond the School: Library Alumni Relations at NSAD

By Lucy Campbell

At the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, library alumni relations are being more tightly integrated into our outreach activities.  We began by partnering with the NSAD Alumni Association to find out how we could better serve them. Many recent alumni are young professionals seeking to pass the Architectural Registration Examinations (AREs), and one need they identified was for study resources. ARE study guides can be expensive, but the association agreed to acquire guides and gift them to the library for alumni use so that the guides could be used by more people. Over $2,000 of the study materials are now available and have proved very popular. In fact, an Alumni Study Group has formed which meets one evening each week in the library.

The ARE study guides are a great resource for our alumni.  Not only are they a savings for us emerging professionals, but the library offers a variety of formats – from flashcards to manuals and practice vignettes – both Kaplan and Ballast!  They helped me pass my first exam within a year of graduating.

-Lauren Pasion, class of 2013

Alumni Study Group
Alumni Study Group

We then looked to our Director of Alumni Relations for fresh ideas and together organized an Alumni Book Drive. Held in honor of our Librarian who was retiring after 9 years, the Book Drive was hugely successful, culminating in a beautiful reception. Over $2,500 worth of books was received, representing a significant addition to the library and giving alumni a sense of ownership in our collection. Each book includes a book plate with the donor’s name, class year and an inscription that offers an institutional memory.

The library in an architecture and design school is a special place for students, a place to escape the hubbub of studio and the criticism of juries.  As an alum many of my happiest memories are of poring over large-format books in the library, absorbing art and architecture away from my desk and computer.  As the school has grown, so has the library facility, and many alumni have been thrilled to see the growth of their favorite book nook into a fantastic and well-stocked resource.  From book drives to support a retiring librarian to ARE study events at the library, alumni have enjoyed giving back to their school and to a place from which they’ve received so much. 

-Peter Soutowood, President of the NSAD Alumni Association

These initiatives are not only mutually beneficial for libraries and graduates, but also serve to strengthen ties between the institution and the professionals. We are excited to continue the relationship and maintain the momentum to develop new partnerships.

The library’s support of NewSchool of Architecture + Design’s Alumni  is invaluable and allows for continued learning and knowledge acquisition, providing access to information, services and resources which is a pivotal part of the Alumni’s continued education.

-Megan Francis, NSAD Alumni Services

Alumni Book Drive reception at NSAD
Alumni Book Drive reception at NSAD

The library hopes to make the alumni book drive an annual event, and is dedicated to ensuring we serve every student, whether past or current.

Lucy Campbell is the Library Director at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego, California. Originally from the UK, she received her MLIS from University College London (UCL) in 2010.