Display of drawings from the RIBA for a Closer Look talk, Victoria and Albert Museum
Copyright: British Architectural Library
The RIBA's collection of drawings, held as part of the RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections, is the largest and most important collection of British architectural drawings in the world. Currently numbering over 1 million drawings, it celebrates the achievements of British architects from the Renaissance to the present day. The collection also contains important drawings by foreign architects, most notably nearly 300 designs and sketches by Andrea Palladio which together forms the world's largest assemblage of his drawings.
Architects in the collection
The majority of the material dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, however it does include some major collections of 20th century architects and some works by contemporary practitioners, including Sir Norman Foster. As well as drawings, there are also architectural objects. Many architects are represented in the collection, including:
Tecton: Finsbury Health Centre, 1938
John Webb: Design for the ceiling, Wilton House
More images can be seen on RIBApix.
Images from the collection are available for commercial use under licensing agreements. If you are interested in licensing any of the designs, please contact us.
The RIBA holds a number of oil paintings of architectural subjects or linked to the history of the institute. These include a view of the Thames by Christopher Nevinson and portraits of past presidents of the RIBA.
Since 2012, all 212,000 oil paintings in the nation's art collections are now online on the Your Paintings website. Some paintings, including those held in by the RIBA, are not owned by the public, but are nevertheless made available for free to the public for enjoyment and research.
The Drawings Collection holds many topographical drawings, the most important of which are probably the views of Greek antiquities painted between 1751 and 1753 by James 'Athenian' Stuart, later engraved for the 'Antiquities of Athens', and William Daniell's views of India. Many architects travelled to Europe and the near East, recording their impressions in sketchbooks or watercolours which are now in the collection. There are also 10,000 architectural engravings, principally of British subjects.
Objects and portraits
Materials involved in the process of design also form part of this collection, these include: models, drawing instruments, casts, office furniture, medals and the busts and portraits of architects.
Location and access
RIBA Architecture Study Rooms, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Admission is free. Available during the opening hours of the Study Rooms. All material is held in stores and collected at set times for visitors: 10.15am, 11.45am, 2pm and 3.15pm. Contact the Drawings and Archives Collections to reserve material in advance and to check their availability.
To find out what drawings and archive material are held in the collections, search the online catalogue. To perform a simple search of the catalogue enter a keyword and under the 'collections' drop-down menu select 'Drawings' or 'Archives'. Parts of the collections have been digitised and can be seen online via RIBApix. Alternatively, please contact the Drawings and Archives Collections.
Please note that the RIBA's collections of books, journals and photographs are located at 66 Portland Place, London