Collection Spotlight: Detail Inspiration

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Oct. 4, 2023, 3 p.m.
Be Inspired -- Check out the Detail Inspiration database for architectural design research help!
architectural drawing of housing estate

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

Detail Inspiration is an easy to use and highly graphic resource for the field of architectural design. The publishers chose its name to emphasize its relevance to the practice and study of architectural design. While the database may indeed aid creativity, its importance lies in its usefulness for precedent analysis and architectural detailing.

Over 4,000 projects from 30 years of Detail magazine are presented in pdf format. The information can be downloaded as well as printed. While not all content from the print journal is available in the database, the online presentation highlights important contemporary projects from a wide range of building types. The documentation is presented in color and typically 2-10 pages in length with photographs of the exterior, interior details and, most importantly, plans.

Detail Inspiration does not replace the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Its coverage is selective and current. But its ease of use as well as broad based international scope make it an important choice for architectural design research.

Simple searching can be done by typing the name of the architect or building into the center box. The More options tab triggers a drop- down menu to filter results. This menu includes building type, construction (façade, roof), topic (GREEN, mobile/temporary; refurbishment), location and year of construction. While highly visible projects like pavilions for the Venice Biennale are included, so are more pedestrian examples like a mobile market stall for the Czech Republic. Each example includes a project description, context, and information like the architect, design team and client.

While Detail Inspiration is an important design resource, Birkhauser Building Types Database, which began as the digitized content of the various Birkhauser publications, is another notable database for this type of research. But even for newer works, the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals is recommended for its more complete coverage.

To access our subscription to Detail Inspiration, go the Libraries’ database main menu . There you can search alphabetically, by subject or simply type Detail Inspiration in the upper right-hand corner.

Try out this resource for your next studio project. For more information, do not hesitate to contact Barbara Opar, Librarian for Architecture at To provide feedback or suggest a title to add to the collection, please complete the Resource Feedback Form.

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