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Society of Architectural Historians launches redesigned open-access Archipedia

The Roofless Church in New Harmony, Indiana, is one of the many projects featured on The Society of Architect's Archipedia, an open-access encyclopedia of the built environment. (Benjamin L. Ross)

The definitive online architectural encyclopedia, SAH Archipedia, was launched by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) in 2012 as a free resource highlighting the built environment across the United States. Two weeks ago, the SAH and the University of Virginia Press (UVA Press) announced a redesigned, open-access website complete with a brand new mobile platform developed with Rotunda, the press’s digital imprint.

When SAH Archipedia first launched, the website included 8,500 building entries accompanied by histories and thematic essays drawn from the Society’s Buildings of the United States (BUS) books. By 2017, the platform had grown to host content from all 50 states. The archive‘s newest iteration incorporates peer-reviewed scholarship into its collection of histories, photographs, and maps of over 20,000 structures and places throughout the country. The entries now include scholar-written, peer-reviewed narratives, lesson plans designed for K-through-12 educators, as well as precise geospatial coordinates and metadata containing tags for firms, periods, styles, materials, and types. 



“For me, one of the most exciting parts of the new SAH Archipedia is something most users will never see: the back end of the website,” said SAH editor Gabrielle Esperdy in a recent press release. “This isn’t just a powerful content management system, it is a true authoring platform that has the potential to foster new forms of scholarly collaboration and makes it easier to create curated collections of entries, such as the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright or automobile service stations or showrooms.”

Some specific examples of thematic essays that are featured include Native American Architecture in Virginia, Women and Delaware Architecture, and even Beer and Breweries. The website also features place-based essays as overviews of architecture in specific states or cities. You can also filter the results to show a map of buildings near your current location.

Archipedia is a fully collaborative project and features the work of hundreds of individuals. SAH has received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Graham Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In the years to come, SAH is planning on expanding the project to include global architectural content.

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