Guide to the Architecture Collections

This guide is a starting point to help you find what you need from the architecture collections of the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership. Architectural objects are housed in various places throughout these two institutions. The guide provides a short description of each location, with information about the material you might find there.

In the Architecture Gallery at the V&A

The Architecture gallery. © Morley von Sternberg

The Architecture gallery. © Morley von Sternberg

A selection from the collections is on show in the Architecture gallery at the V&A. Opened in 2004, this is the first museum gallery in the country dedicated to architecture in the UK. It provides an accessible and engaging introduction to the art, use and practice of architecture. On display are models, drawings and designs, and samples of materials, as well as photographs and fragments of buildings. Interpretation includes audio commentaries, interactive style guides, videos and touch objects.

The Architecture gallery is organised around five themes:

  • The Art of Architecture
  • The Function of Buildings
  • Structures
  • Architects and Architecture, from conception to detailed instructions for builders
  • Buildings in Context, with the changing urban fabric of Trafalgar Square as a case study

An introductory space explores contemporary issues in an 'Architecture Now' display. There is also a temporary exhibition space for shows that present different aspects of the collections.

In the Study Rooms at the V&A

The rest of the drawings and archives collections can be seen in the Prints and Drawings Study Room and the RIBA Architecture Study Room, located in the Henry Cole Wing. These study rooms are open to all members of the public including groups and children. Specialist staff are available to help visitors and advise on research. The Prints, Drawings and Architecture Education Room is available to groups for seminars and presentations.

Prints and Drawings Study Room

The Prints and Drawings Study Room can accommodate 24 people.
For enquiries call +44 (0) 20 7942 2563 or Contact us online
For group bookings call +44 (0) 20 7942 2211 or email bookings.office@vam.ac.uk
View the RIBA library catalogue

RIBA Architecture Study Rooms

The Drawings Study Room can accommodate 7 people, and the Archives Study Room can accommodate 8 people.
For enquiries call +44 (0)20 7307 3708, fax +44 (0)20 7589 3175 or email drawings&archives@inst.riba.org
View the V&A Prints, Drawings and Paintings catalogue

Prints, Drawings and Architecture Education Room

The Prints, Drawings and Architecture Education Room can accommodate 12 people seated around a table, or 20-24 for presentations without tables.
For enquiries call +44 (0)20 7942 2563 or Contact us online
For group bookings call +44 (0)20 7942 2211, 9.00-17.30, seven days a week, or email bookings.office@vam.ac.uk

At the National Art Library, V&A

The National Art Library (NAL) is the national collection of documentation on art, craft and design and is based at the V&A. It has the most comprehensive research collections in the UK of published and manuscript material relating to this field. The Library is accessible to the public as a reference library.

The NAL has a lot of material related to architecture, from books to architectural journals. All of these can be found on the NAL catalogue online. There is also an extensive collection of 18th- and 19th-century volumes with prints and topographical drawings. These include a 19th-century copy of Inigo Jones's Roman Sketchbook and many volumes of Piranesi prints.

Contact:

National Art Library
Word & Image Department
Victoria and Albert Museum
South Kensington
London
SW7 2RL

Contact us online

At the British Architectural Library, RIBA

British Architectural Library, RIBA

British Architectural Library, RIBA

The British Architectural Library's collection of books and periodicals was established in 1834. It collects material on architecture - contemporary and historical - from all over the world in many languages, with an emphasis on the United Kingdom. The main library houses books published after 1900 and a large periodicals collection. It also contains practical material, such as British Standards and the building and planning regulations. The Special Reserve Collection consists of books published before 1900 and older periodicals. The Early Imprints Collection contains about 4000 volumes published between 1478 and 1840, including 15th-century first editions of Vitruvius's De Architectura and Alberti's De Re Aedificatoria.

The Architectural Photographs Collection is also housed at the British Architectural Library. It covers architecture worldwide of all periods and provides a rich visual resource for researchers, the media and the public. It comprises over 400,000 images (the majority of them unique) in both colour and black and white in a wide variety of formats - prints, negatives, colour transparencies and postcards. The photographs date from the 1850s to the present.

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

Opening hours:

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 10am-8pm
Wednesday - Friday: 10am-5pm
Saturday: 10am-1.30pm
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

It is essential to make an appointment to view the Photographs Collection
Tel: +44 (0)20 7307 3627 or +44 (0)20 7307 3642
Fax: +44 (0)20 7631 1802
Email: Photo@inst.riba.org

In the V&A Archives

The Archive of Art and Design public study room, Blythe House

The Archive of Art and Design public study room, Blythe House

The V&A holds a variety of manuscript archives for 19 architects and interior designers including, Eileen Gray, J.H.V. Dyer and Lucienne and Robin Day. A comprehensive list can be found on the Architecture in the Archives page.

The Victoria and Albert Museum archives are also kept at Blythe House and contain some information about the Museum's buildings. A good starting point is The Victoria and Albert Museum, A History of its Building by John Physick, which can be seen in the National Art Library.

Find out more about the V&A Archives

Contact:

Archive of Art and Design
Blythe House
23 Blythe Road
London W14 0QX

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7602 8832
Contact us online

Visiting buildings

Many important buildings in London and throughout the UK are represented in the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership collections. These include George Aitchinson’s Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ, and Philip Webb’s Red House, Red House Lane, Bexleyheath, DA6 8JF.

Leaflets called ‘Find Out More’ can be found in selected buildings. These give details of relevant material in the architecture collections and how to find it.

Visit Arts and Crafts Buildings in London to find the location of Arts and Crafts buildings in London, and Art Deco Buildings in London to find the location of Art Deco buildings in London.

The Arab Hall at Leighton House, George Aitchinson, 1877. © RIBA Architecture Library Drawings Collection

The Arab Hall at Leighton House, George Aitchinson, 1877. © RIBA Architecture Library Drawings Collection

On the web

The V&A and RIBA websites provide a wide variety of resources on architecture. At the V&A these include:

At the RIBA these include

Interactive Map

Discover the many treasures in the beautiful V&A galleries, find out where events are happening in the Museum or just check the location of the café, shops, lifts or toilets. Simple to use, the V&A interactive map works on all screen sizes, from your tablet or smartphone to your desktop at home.

Launch the Interactive Map

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Looking at Glass: A Guide to Terms

Looking at Glass: A Guide to Terms

An essential guide to glass and its production. This compact handbook offers definitions and descriptions of a wide range of glass terminology such as…

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Event - Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Tour

Tue 30 September 2014 14:00

V&A Guide Vicki Beauchamp will lead her second tour in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, focusing on political and social history from the year 1000 to 1600.

Book online