Barbara Opar, column editor

At this year’s conference in Boston, the Association of Architecture School Librarians sponsored a special focus session which explored some of the ways in which new technologies are continuing to transform how we collect, share, teach and experience the creative and scholarly record of the built environment. Moderated by Sarah Dickinson of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the AASL panel addressed collaborations which take full advantage of the digital environment.

Hannah Bennett, Architecture Librarian at Princeton University was the first speaker and presented her views on the physical space of the library as a human research environment. Using a term drawn from sociology, Bennett discussed two paradigmatic libraries as case studies for the way in which architectural design can advance library technologies and research protocols. Gunnar Asplund’s Stockholm Public Library of 1928 has been nicknamed “the mind” and suggests a way to imagine the nature of research.  The second library, Norman Foster’s Philology Library at the Free University in Berlin, has been called “the brain” and looks to anticipate the rapid changes in library technologies. Seen together, the buildings present a contemporary understanding of the nature of intelligence.

The panel then turned to presentations of projects aimed at advancing scholarship through new library technology. Ann Baird Whiteside, Director of the Frances Loeb library at the GSD , and Jesse Shapins, an instructor at that institution, presented Zeega, an open-source HTML infrastructure built on public APIs which enables users to view, annotate and remix Harvard’s own digital collections with our repositories on the web.   At MIT, Façade: Future-proofing Architectural Computer-Aided design is a project which looks to identify, collect, manage, archive and make accessible CAD models and documentation.  Jolene de Verges, Digital Projects and Metadata Manager for MIT Libraries, described collaborative efforts with leading practitioners and how the work will benefit architecture libraries and archives.

At Notre Dame, Samantha Salden, an assistant professor, is collaborating with the Library to put forth a digital research portal on Seaside. Launched in September 2011, the Seaside Research Portal uses new technologies to archive, organize and present the architecture and urban design of Seaside, Florida. Jennifer Parker, the Architecture Librarian at Notre Dame, described how this project is benefitting the Library while embedding critical thinking, research, and precedent analysis into the studio curriculum.

Next month’s column will talk about other collaborations in architectural education as presented by speakers at the 2012 AASL conference.