Architects’ Sketchbooks: Resource Guide

The Gardener's Cottage, Munstead Wood, sketchbook, Edwin Lutyens, 1896. © RIBA Architecture Library Drawings Collection

The Gardener's Cottage, Munstead Wood, sketchbook, Edwin Lutyens, 1896. © RIBA Architecture Library Drawings Collection

This guide explains where to find architects' sketchbooks across the collections of the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership. It also gives some description of the kind of sketchbooks you can find. The collections hold more than 1500 architects' sketchbooks, the majority of which belong to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Related artefacts include architects' journals, individual sketches, letters and diaries.

Individual sketches can be found throughout the Victoria and Albert Museum, including Joseph Paxton's famous first drawing of the Great Exhibition building and a page from one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's sketchbooks. These are in the British Galleries, where an assortment of topographical sketchbooks are shown under Elegant Pursuits. This reflects the importance of the dilettante architect in British architectural history. A Charles Jencks sketchbook can be found in the 20th Century galleries.

In the Architecture gallery at the V&A

Although the Architecture gallery does not have sketchbooks on show, there are many individual sketches to look at. The majority can be found in the Architects and Architecture display, and include drawings of buildings by Andrea Palladio and Edwin Lutyens, a preliminary sketch for Castle Howard by Sir John Vanbrugh, sketches for the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea by Erich Mendelsohn and a Carlo Scarpa sketch for a family tomb in northern Italy.

In the Study Rooms at the V&A

Weissenhof Seidlung, Stuttgart, travel journal, Peter Moro. © RIBA Architecture Library Manuscripts Collection

Weissenhof Seidlung, Stuttgart, travel journal, Peter Moro. © RIBA Architecture Library Manuscripts Collection

Almost all of the sketchbooks can be consulted in the Henry Cole Wing of the V&A. The assortment ranges from a volume filled by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the 1680s to sketchbooks kept by A.W.N. Pugin, Lutyens, Theo Crosby and Erno Goldfinger. They include both topographical observations and design drawings. The V&A's Word and Image department also has some architects' sketchbooks in its holdings, including some by E.W. Godwin and a photocopy sketchbook by Nigel Coates. These can be seen in the Prints and Drawings Study Room.

These Study Rooms can be visited on a drop-in basis. To speak to a curator from the RIBA Architecture Study Rooms call +44 (0)20 7303 3708 or email drawings&archives@inst.riba.org.

To enquire about material in the Prints and Drawings Study Room call +44 (0)20 7942 2563 or Contact us online

At the National Art Library, V&A

There are many publications on artists' and architects' sketchbooks for background reading in the NAL, and some interesting reproductions of sketchbooks and sketches by architects such as Daniel Libeskind and Inigo Jones. These can be found using the keyword 'sketchbook' in the Online Catalogue.

At the British Architectural Library, RIBA

John Soane's House, sketch, Pugin Senior, 1833. Museum no. L5184-1969

John Soane's House, sketch, Pugin Senior, 1833. Museum no. L5184-1969

The British Architectural Library is a rich resource for books on architectural sketchbooks and facsimile journals, including Hugh Casson's topographical drawings of India, Samuel Buck's Yorkshire sketchbook and several 18th-century collections of archaeological drawings, like Robert Wood's recordings of The Ruins of Palmyra and James Stewart's Antiquities of Athens.

Find out more about the British Architectural Library; including information on the collections and how to use the library.

Opening hours

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 10:00-20:00
Wednesday - Friday: 10:00-17:00
Saturday: 10:00-13:30
Sunday: closed

Admissions

The library at Portland Place is open to RIBA members and the public for reference purposes.
RIBA members should bring their RIBA membership card.
Access is free to non-RIBA members on production of proof of identity e.g. passport, driving licence, student university ID card.
Please note only RIBA members may borrow books.

Contact

The British Architectural Library, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Nearest tube stations: Oxford Circus, Portland Place
24-hour recorded information: +44 (0)20 7307 3707
Public information line 0906 302 0400
Email: info@inst.riba.org

In the V&A Archives

There are a few architects' sketchbooks in the Archive of Art and Design at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, London W14 0QX (to contact the Archive of Art and Design call +44 (0)20 7603 7493). These include volumes by Crace and Godwin. Blythe House is also home to the V&A Archives, which hold drawings and sketches of museum buildings. For enquiries call +44 (0)20 7602 8832.

In London

Design for wall decoration, E.W. Godwin. Museum no. E.285-1963

Design for wall decoration, E.W. Godwin. Museum no. E.285-1963

There are several important libraries and archives in London where architects' sketchbooks can be found. These include the British Museum, the Royal Society, the London Metropolitan Archives and the Public Record Office.

Several academic institutions hold architectural artefacts, including sketchbooks. Examples are King's College, the University of London and University College, and Middlesex University. Local archives are a rich source of material relating to buildings in specific areas. Architects' sketches and sketchbooks can be found by looking at the catalogues of individual local archives. To find contact details for your local record office and archive go to English Record Offices and Archives on the Web

On the Web

Find out more about architects' sketchbooks

Visit the eca libray service to access other architecture library catalogues

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Magma Sketchbook: Art & Illustration

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Event - Architects as Artists

Sat 15 November 2014–Sun 29 March 2015

DISPLAY: Why do architects create art? From the Renaissance to the 20th century architects have recorded buildings for study and pleasure, to document their travels and supplement their income. Drawing was also considered an important tool to educate students in their knowledge of historic buildings, and necessary to prepare presentation drawings for clients.

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