Collections Spotlight: Birkhauser Building Types Online

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Feb. 26, 2024, 10 a.m.
Birkhauser Building Types Online has undergone significant improvements in the past year which are included in remarks about this resource.
exterior of brick building

by Barbara Opar, Librarian for Architecture and French Language and Literature

The study of precedents is integral to architectural education, including at Syracuse. Such a study enables the student to learn from previous similar examples, making this type of database highly relevant. As a discipline, the field of architecture has not produced many full-text tools of this nature, so each addition to the field is valuable. Birkhauser is a well- regarded publisher and, in this instance, has digitized the content of their core building type publications. The content of this database added to that of Detail Inspiration and the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals will enable students and faculty to locate a wide range of important architectural precedents for study.

While their design manuals form the basis for the content of Birkhauser Building Types Online, additional building type specific publications, issues of the journal Bauwelt and content created specifically for the database comprise the resources. The coverage consisting of public works and eight building types are highlighted with top level banners. This content ranges from 92 different industrial buildings to 696 examples of housing. The revisions may still be underway since sacred buildings while included do not have a banner heading.

There are multiple search options from the central box. The researcher can use natural language to enter their own search terms or take a more faceted approach to searching. A simple search of the term “Montessori” nets six examples with two projects by Herman Hertzberger. Clicking on the project box reveals a brief essay in one column and a taxonomy in the other. Searching by morphological type is also possible, for example the block infill or the detached building, as well as by urban context such as green spaces/parks. Generally, color photographs of the building’s exterior and interior are included. The plans are to scale and very clear. They can easily be downloaded and printed.

Birkhauser has made a concerted effort to redesign the database for greater clarity and ease of use. Drop-down menus allow the researcher to expand or limit the search strategy by date, country and architect/firm. However, entries are often limited. As appropriate, other categories such as specific program, geometric organization, height, type of loadbearing and layout are included.

The content when available is robust as it has been selected by experts and new materials are being added. But this database is recommended for use alongside the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals and Detail Inspiration for best results in researching the architectural precedent. To provide feedback or suggest a title to add to the collection, please complete the Resource Feedback Form.

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