Birkhauser: Building types Online

Birkhauser: Buildings Types Online

Library of Birmingham

We have started a free trial of a new database which will run until 18th November and is specifically for architecture students.

Birkhauser provides a comprehensive online resource for the teaching and practice of architectural design and currently comprises approximately 5000 drawings and 2000 photos. It holds a large international collection of contemporary buildings, from the past 30 years, including housing, schools, libraries, office buildings, museums, sacred buildings and industrial complexes.

The high-quality architectural drawings are mostly vector-based, drawn to scale and available for download. The launch version has more than 850 case studies and more than 120 thematic articles on specific aspects of individual building types. Annual updates will add new building types and more contemporary international case studies.

So I tried some searching.  The search options are extensive.  Search options include: Architect, Building Types, Decade, Height, Country, Author and Urban Context. There is also Boolean searching (AND, OR, NOT) and additional rows can be added. There are approximately 30 building types you can search under; these are broken down into groups and sub-groups.

Random searching – or is it just me?  I was disappointed with some of my search results.  I used Advanced Search to look for Architects AND Projects with mixed results.  It appears they have nothing on Zaha Hadid or David Chipperfield which I found surprising.

I searched for projects by Sir Norman Foster which produced ten results including a full text article by Frank Juttner (published in 2004) entitled: History of industrial buildings – an exemplary morphology.  No references to Foster but a jolly interesting read for students wanting an overview on the history of industrial buildings!  This article contains lots of photographs but they are all quite grainy and in black and white.

If you search for something in England you have to select Great Britain as there are no options for England or the United Kingdom.  Try over-riding the options offered in the drop-down box with your own search, and your search box will be changed automatically to look for the next option on their own list.  Watch out for this when conducting a search as this applies to everything you search for.

I also looked at other search combinations including a generic search.  Building Type: Libraries AND Country: Great Britain.  Four results were displayed. Over the past 30 years there have been lots of new flagship libraries built in this country (despite many smaller closures) plus major refurbishments by high profile architectural  practices. Sadly our wonderful British Library failed to get a mention.  Birkhauser states it will be adding new content at the end of each year so perhaps we can send through some suggestions.

Perhaps more specific searching produces better results.  I tried Urban Context AND Suburbia AND Height (High rise – 8 levels and more) and 10 results were displayed. So those with more architectural knowledge than myself may find more information if they know what they are looking for.

If you click on Reading View you can save, edit and print your PDF. You can add notes and set up alerts for new content on your chosen subject area.  You can preview the citation in APA format but don’t forget to check for UoP accuracy on Referencing@Portsmouth.

To save results in your bookshelf you need a personalised account.  Registration is free and you will need to click on the link they email you to activate your account.

I was confused that this database states it holds projects from the last 30 years when I was able to search for projects from the 1940s onwards. See the Decades search option.

If you disagree with my comments and think that Buildings Types Online is a resource we should keep please email Greta Friggens or comment on this post.

For more information on how to use this database see the detailed user guide.


Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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