The World Architecture Index: The Story of an Essential Resource for Architectural Precedent Research
Column by Barret Havens, Architecture Subject Specialist and Interim University Librarian, Woodbury University
Barbara Opar, column editor
It is 1991. Try to imagine what architecture libraries were like. Of course, some architecture librarians don’t have to imagine, because they were there.
- Pre-Columbian Architecture of Mesoamerica
- New Directions in African Architecture
- The Art & Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain
But even now, in the age of Google, Teague’s guide is far from obsolete. It is still a critical tool in the quiver of any architecture librarian. One reason it is still relevant is that design disciplines rely on print sources for their consistently outstanding image quality, and the WAI directs the user to illustrations in hardcopy. Although, increasingly, image databases such as Artstor do contain high quality images as well, many architecture librarians find that, especially when searching Artstor, their university library catalogs, or the Avery Index for images representing projects built before the 1950s, they are at a challenging impasse when their searches are unsuccessful, which is the case often enough. That impasse is created by gaps in coverage that still exist today, for the following reasons:
- Periodical literature tends to focus primarily on recent developments and recent projects, so the Avery Index is not as useful for targeting images of older projects as books are in many cases.
- Fairly often, digital image databases such as Artstor also fail to deliver in terms of providing renderings of older projects.
Teague, Edward. “Re: World Architecture Index — Comments.” Received by Barret Havens, 15 Jan.-15 March, 2023. Email Interview.