Architecture/For a Flat Library of Architecture
- For a flat library of architecture
Building a digital library of writings on architecture offers itself also as an opportunity to rethink the architecture of digital library itself and ask how it can open up to new methods of research and discovery. In the experiment, primary function of the library is kept – it firstly exists to serve as a resource for architectural research. But does it? Digital libraries are composed of numerous screens linked to each other by the complex logic of database design and bibliographic data. They are tremendously useful when we know what we are looking for, but not so great when we are interested in learning and discovering things closely related to those we are already familiar with. Neither advanced search options nor long lists of results are very helpful here. Digital libraries can be great in content but usually lack in form.
How can they be designed differently? As opposed to physical libraries, digital libraries are two-dimensional, they are screen-based. What if we take advantage of this two-dimensional spatiality more fully and view it as planar linearity, linearity so familiar from reading and navigating inside books? What if our collection of books is organised in a way texts are organised in books? We can take several organizational elements of the book and turn them into architectural features of our library, namely: bibliography, anthology, and one from ancient history – scroll.
As a bibliography, it may offer an enumerative list of publications relevant for partial themes, while it may also give a glimpse of their transmission and reception in the forms of translations and reviews, all directly linked to their digital versions (we can call this aspect the “annotated source bibliography”).
As an anthology, it may bring together texts informing a given discourse, while it may also give in to its incoherent nature that can described as a range of mutually conditioning discursive fields, the interactions of which in turn serve as starting points for the selection of publications for inclusion in the library (we can call this aspect the “knot-anthology”).
As a scroll (or roll), instead of organising texts as a database with multiple entries, its interface may consist of a single page that can be searched using the function of a web browser (CTRL+F or Apple+F) and navigated through internal links (we can call this aspect the “flat library”).
This page is one such an architectural library. It gathers some of the writings on history, theory and criticism that have shaped the discourse of architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is designed for both the novice in the field and the more experienced researcher. The table of contents provides a general structure. Another way of navigation is to search for a specific name, keyword or publication and explore neighboring elements.
The page is divided into five main sections.
The first three contain a selection of books, catalogues and magazine issues. The first is dedicated to canonical books, loosely grouped into themes. The citation of a volume is followed by its published translations into five languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish), short annotation and list of reviews and commentaries available online. This selection is further expanded in the next section listing some one hundred, primarily English-language volumes grouped into 25 themes. The third section contains anthologies and readers compiling historical texts in several languages, some sourced from the volumes listed above but their scope is much wider, with each book following its own selection criteria.
The contents of five English-language anthologies is listed in a separate table that can be sorted by name of the author, year of the publication, title of the text, and collection it is included in. More than 270 programs, manifestos, statements, theoretical and critical essays are included along with editors' introductions.
The last main section consists of an extensive listing of 180 architectural periodicals in multiple languages, about one half of which is available online. The journals can be sorted by title, year of the first publication, city of the first publisher, and primary language. Many are accompanied in the rightmost column by interviews and commentaries situating the journal in its historical context. Interestingly, among the magazines accessible online are, with some significant exceptions, mostly those published until the 1930s and those launched in the 2000s or later.
Note that this is a work in progress, comments and further suggestions are welcome.
First published on 23 July 2015. Updated on 5 May 2017 on the occasion of Public Library / Javna knjižnica exhibition in Novi Sad.