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Environmental Design Library @ UC Berkeley

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Finding Information on Buildings and Places

This bibliographic guide focuses on how to research buildings and places with an emphasis on Bay Area and California. For more resources see Finding Local Information; San Francisco Bay Area Architects and Architecture Resources; California Landscape Architecture and Gardens; Vernacular Architecture and Landscape Architecture Resources; History and Literature of Landscape Architecture, and other guides available from the Environmental Design Library website: Be sure to check the online Library catalogs, OskiCat or Melvyl, for many additional resources, or contact the reference desk in the Environmental Design Library.

Content reviewed: September 2008. Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne, Head, Environmental Design Library.

Built, designed, owned or commissioned it (client)? Owns, regulates, or manages it now? Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; Periodical Articles; Newspaper Articles; Archives; City Directories
Lived in or used it or worked in it? In the present? City and Neighborhood Histories (PDF); Company Histories; City Directories
Lived in the neighborhood when it was built?
Lives there now?
City Directories; Interviews & Oral Histories
Were the important people associated with this place?
And now?
Architecture Biographical Dictionaries; Landscape Architecture Biographical Dictionaries; California Biographical Sources
What Information Resources to Use
Type of building or place is it?
Are the precedents for it?
Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; Building Styles; Building & Landscape Types
Was the original function or use of the place? City Directories; City Histories; Neighbohood Histories (PDF)
Additional or changed functions has it had? Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps
Style is it; how does its style fit in the history of design? Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; Architectural Histories; Style Guides; American Architecture
Activities went on in the neighborhood when it was built?
Current activities take place there?
Newpapers; City & Neighborhood Histories; General Plans
Was the political, regulatory, and economic environment in which it was built? Newspapers; Zoning & Building Codes; Public Records; City Histories; General Plans
Are its features, materials or plants, and what do these choices signify? Observation; Architecture Dictionaries; Landscape Architecture Dictionaries; Garden Plants; Archives
Is the (often invisible) structure under or behind the design? Guidebooks; Archival Drawings; Plans, Photos
Important events happened here? City Histories; Guidebooks; Newspapers
Condition is it in? Observation; Public Records
Was there before it was built? Maps; City Histories; Neighborhood Histories; Photos
Where Information Resources to Use
Is it now? Maps
Was it originally (as city grew & change)? Historic Maps; Sanborn Maps; San Francisco Genealogy
Did the construction materials originate? Products & Trade Catalogs; Architectural & Neighborhood Histories; Archives; Newspapers
Does it fit technologically (typical or advanced for the time)? Histories of Building Technology, Building Materials and Construction; Landscape Materials
Why Information Resources to Use
Was it built or designed? Newspapers & Periodical Articles; Archives; General Plans
Was it built or designed in this specific location? Census Data; Sanborn Maps; Architectural Histories; General Plans
Was it built or designed to look the way it does; what was the designer's intention? Interviews; Works on Architects; Works on the Landscape Architect; Architectural Style Guides; Archives
Is and was it important or significant? Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; City Histories; Neighborhood Histories; Cultural Histories; General Plans
When Information Resources to Use
Was it constructed? Sanborn Maps; Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; Archives; Public Records
Was it altered? Newspaper & Periodical Articles; Public records; Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks
Were buildings around it constructed; which were there when the place was new? Photos; Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; City Histories; Neighborhood Histories; Early Films of San Francisco
How Information Resources to Use
Did people respond to it originally? Newspaper & Periodical Articles; Diaries; Oral Histories; Films, Videos
Do people respond to it now? Interviews; City Histories; Neighborhood Histories
Did it affect the neighborhood or people in the community? Sanborn Maps; Interviews; Public Records; Newspaper Articles
Did/do neighborhood people influence its design or use? Newspaper & Periodical Articles; Observation; Public Records
Does it compare to similar places elsewhere? Architectural Guidebooks; Landscape Guidebooks; Archives
Does it relate to its landscape or setting? Newspaper & Periodical Articles; Observation; Archives
Was the topography altered to accommodate this place; how was it accomplished? Topographic Maps; Photos; Neighborhood Histories
Much did it cost to build? Was it expensive? Archives; Public Records; Newspapers
Does it fit in the designer's body of work (typical? a departure? have signature details?) Works on the Landscape Architect; Works on the Architect
Does it look now compared to original appearance? Archives; Photos; City Histories; Architectural Histories