Armchair Architecture: Building Design on the Web

Article excerpt


Paris was another revelation. Our guide explained that, in the 1860s, the medieval city had been leveled and replaced by broad boulevards and neoclassical bourgeois housing by Georges-Eugene Haussmann, prefect under Napoleon III. So, the unified beauty of Paris, far from being an accident, was in fact carefully planned and dearly bought.

Architecture creates environment and shapes our experience of place. If we can't travel the world to explore architecture in person, we can perhaps use the web to get a feeling for its creations.

History of Architecture

Today's architecture springs from its past. Explore (mostly Western) building design history with these links.

Great Buildings Online

Architecture Week magazine hosts this eminently searchable database of information about architecturally important structures from across the globe. Search by place name or by the name of the building or architect. See the timeline of architects to make connections between contemporaries. Browse "Architectural Types" including styles and construction types. Entries show photos and information about the structure and the architect. This is a great starting point to explore the history of architecture.

Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has mounted this database from its Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) collections. Search by keyword to find large-format, black-and-white photos of such diverse treasures as the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico and Frank Lloyd Wright's Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago. There are measured drawings here too.

National Register of Historic Places

Not many photos here, but this database, maintained by the National Parks Service, documents buildings, sites, and objects of historic importance across the nation. Search its national register.

National Trust Historic Sites

"Can a nation lose its memory?" Not while the National Trust is on the case. Explore images of sites worth preserving from around the U.S. Search by region or state. Dip into its communal photo pool on Flickr at com/groups/thisplacematters.

National Trust: Architecture and Buildings collections/w-architecture_buildings.htm

Get an idea about the history of architecture in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with this page from the National Trust.

Architecture Guide guidehomepage

Designed for realtors, this page offers small drawings of common residential architectural styles along with a bit of history for each. There is also a visual dictionary of building features such as arches, columns, and rooflines. A monthly column called Architecture Coach delves into the styles and histories in more depth.

Spiro Kostof Lectures: Architecture 170B, Spring 1991

Spiro Kostof (1936-1991) was a renowned architectural historian. View the 26-part video of the entire semester of his last class, "A Historical Survey of Architecture and Urbanism," taught at the University of California-Berkeley in 1991. Kostof starts with Florence in the Renaissance and moves forward to late 20th-century architecture. Sit back and learn! You don't even have to take the exam.


Enough with the old. On with the new and very tall: skyscrapers! The 1970s saw the tallest buildings built in the U.S., including the World Trade Center. …