Outline of the Categories of Information
Building a Common Framework for Catalogue Entries
Implementing a Common Framework
Organization of the Guidelines
Subjects/Built Works
People/Corporate Bodies
Geographic Locations
Bibliographic Sources
Group Entries
Volume (Sketchbook) Entry
Item Entries
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A Guide to the Description of Architectural Drawings

Subjects/Built Works

Subject/Built Work Identification
Related People/Corporate Bodies
Subject/Built Work Characteristics
Subject/Built Work Bibliographic References

By definition, architectural documents concern some aspect either of a design or of the built environment. Every such document, whether it is primarily visual (e.g., a drawing) or textual (e.g., an architectural program), has at least one subject. A subject is that which is depicted, whether it represents all or part of an unbuilt design or built work. In current parlance, the term architectural work is sometimes used for this concept.[1] Subjects may be the result of a problem-solving or theoretical exercise, a competition, the surveying or recording of structures, or fulfillment of an academic requirement.

Subjects can be recorded through proper names and/or generic characteristics. Proper names (of the subject and its geographic location) serve to identify what is represented; these categories are listed under Subject/Built Work Identification. Subject/Built Work Characteristics include generic information: form, style, function, materials, method of construction, dates, etc. This section also includes categories for Related People/Corporate Bodies, such as architects, clients, and inhabitants, and for Bibliographic References.

A subject may represent any built structure, whether or not the structure still exists or has been renovated, changed, incorporated into another structure, or copied elsewhere. Equally, a subject may represent a design—or a series of designs—never actually built, or built much later. An example of such complexity is a set of competition drawings submitted in 1901, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Entitled Haus Eines Kunst-freundes, the project did not result in a realized building at the time. However, 88 years later, in 1989, the drawings were used to build House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, Scotland. A subject may not have anything to do with the design process, but can be topographical, or a retrospective record of some aspect of the built environment at some point in time. Finally, a subject can range from an entire geographic place, such as a city, to a small part of a structure, such as a light fixture.

In cataloguing architectural documents, it is critical to establish a consistent framework for distinctions within this wide range. Above all, it is necessary to be explicit about whether an entry describes the subject as it is depicted or whether it describes a built work. At first glance, it may seem that a drawing's subject has many of the same attributes as a built work. But because a drawing is not the same thing as a building, it is also possible that they may differ in any or all of their attributes. For instance, the name of the subject in the inscribed title may not be the name of the built work, as in the following example of a subject and built work in London, England:

[naming the subject]:

1 house Chelsea Embankment (Tite St) for Whistler


The White House

The following is an excerpt from a subject/built work authority record:

In repositories with collections of architectural documents (as opposed to institutions responsible for recording the built environment), the focus of cataloguing is usually documents, not built works. One of the primary reasons to catalogue such documents is that they are a source of information about designs of all sorts, whether built or not. Often, architectural documents are the only source of information about unrealized proposals and concepts. Keeping this need in mind will help maintain the distinction between subjects and built works.

Numerous items may depict the same subject—in fact, some subjects have been represented in thousands of documents. Certain subject categories (such as Subject Name and Subject Location) are often identical among all entries, which argues for maintaining an authority file for subjects. The following guidelines assume the use of such a file. Some institutions may also wish to record information on built works in a separate authority file. Ideally, what is required is a data structure that allows for the linking of subjects to built works. However, these guidelines do not attempt to solve the problem of data structure for the two separate but parallel types of information. Unless otherwise noted under Implementation, the categories that follow are applicable to both. Repositories will need to consider their focus and resources when implementing a data structure that includes these categories.

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