Reviewed February 2020
Stacy R. Williams, Head, Architecture & Fine Arts Library
University of Southern California Libraries
Managed by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) and the University of Virginia Press, SAH Archipedia is an architectural encyclopedia that was relaunched in October 2019 as an open-access resource about the built environment of the United States. The contents include article entries and essays that are accessible using either a computer or a mobile device.
SAH Archipedia began in 2012 and many of the articles were derived from Buildings of the United States (BUS), a book series produced by SAH that covers individual state architecture. This previous iteration of the encyclopedia only provided limited public access, letting users without a subscription view a portion of the articles. The subscription-based full version was only available to SAH members, institutional, and individual subscribers. The relaunched SAH Archipedia does not require a login and is freely available to all users with an internet connection who are interested in learning more about the architectural history of the cities throughout the United States.
SAH Archipedia provides researchers with the construction history and images of over 20,000 structures and places throughout the United States. Content is continuously added and the site plans to expand to include international locations. Visitors to the site can begin by using the search box to find an individual entry on a house, building, or structure. Each entry in SAH Archipedia is written by experts in architectural history and is peer-reviewed. Basic entry information includes map, address, architect, year built, timeline, and a section called “What’s nearby?” that lists other buildings and structures that are in proximity. The entries also provide hyperlinked information on type, styles, and building materials, for those who want to use the site for further research. Although not all entries include images, users are encouraged to submit photographs and archival drawings to the site. The site also includes a browsable collection of topics organized by a map, building type, architectural style, architect, building material, and city/state. Powered by Google Maps and OpenStreetMap, the map feature allows users to search for building entries that are 10 miles from their location, similar to the “What’s nearby?” feature that is part of the article entries. SAH Archipedia uses the Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus (GAAT) for their topics and metadata, which allows users to locate information alphabetically on the building type, architectural style, or building materials, as well as the definition of the selected term.
Although not completely streamlined, the site is easy to navigate and while WikiArquitectura, another open-access online encyclopedia, has advertising placed in some sections of its website, SAH Archipedia does not distract researchers with popup advertisements. There is also transparency in terms of knowing who works behind the scenes. SAH Archipedia lists the staff, editors, and members of the editorial advisory committee. In comparison to the article entries included in WikiArquitectura,
Additionally, thematic and place-based essays written by architectural historians give an overview and analysis on some of the topics covered, and teacher resources such as lesson plans are also provided. Researchers interested in learning more about architecture, building materials, and architectural history will find useful the narrative style entries and concise definitions of the materials used in the construction of a building or structure. SAH Archipedia is a well-written, authoritative resource that would be useful to researchers and interested users at all levels, from elementary school through college.users of the peer-reviewed SAH Archipedia will also be able to see the author’s name for an entry and any references used.