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RIBA Library and Collections

RIBA Library and Collections

The RIBA cares for one of the largest and most diverse architectural collections in the world.

From 15th century books and drawings to photographs documenting architecture around the world today, the collections constitute a unique body of architectural knowledge that is global in scope and rich in historical detail.

There are over four million items in the collections, including models, drawings, photographs, and archival documents. Our library holds around 150,000 books and periodicals covering every aspect of architecture and architectural history, including the most significant new publications on architecture from around the world.

Open and free to all, the RIBA Library and Collections are a leading resource for the study of architecture and architectural history in the UK.

Our collections

Drawings

The RIBA Drawings Collection includes almost one million architectural drawings, from sketches and preliminary designs to presentation and technical drawings.

The collection is particularly strong in British architecture, with all significant architects from the Renaissance to the present day represented in some form. Major groups include the work of Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren, and several generations of the Wyatt, Pugin, Scott, and Waterhouse families. More recent collections include the surviving drawings of Edwin Lutyens, Ernö Goldfinger, and Denys Lasdun.

The Drawings Collections is held at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the V&A + RIBA architecture partnership. To view items from the collection you will need to book an appointment

Photographs

The Robert Elwall Photographs Collection comprises around 1.5 million images from the earliest days of photography to the present day.

The collection includes the photographic archives of individual architects or practices, travel and topographic images from across the world, press photographs from major architectural journals, and large bodies of work by some of the best known architectural photographers of the 20th century. All types of photographic media are covered, including prints, negatives, slides, medium and large format transparencies, photographically illustrated books, and digital files.

The photographs collection is held at 66 Portland Place in central London. To view material from the collection in person please book an appointment.

Objects and Artefacts

Alongside 2D material, we hold a wide variety of objects and artefacts documenting the evolution of the architectural profession over the past four centuries.

This collection includes drawing tables, stools, plan chests, and measuring instruments from various time periods, offering an insight into the changing environment of the architectural office. Smaller items include coins, architectural toys, and the RIBA’s silver collection. In addition, we care for some 120 portraits depicting former presidents of the Institute, and have collected architectural medals since the foundation of the RIBA in 1834.

This collection is housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the V&A + RIBA architecture partnership. To view items from the collections in our study room at the V&A or at our outstore in Fulham, please book an appointment.

Archives and Manuscripts

The largest of its type in the UK, our archives and manuscripts collection includes the personal correspondence, journals, notebooks, administrative files, and unpublished texts of world-famous British architects.

In addition, we collect material related to individuals and societies who have helped shape architectural culture globally, including journalists, writers, historians, and educators. This collection also covers the RIBA institutional archive, which documents the history of the Institute from the earliest foundational documents to recent publications and ephemera.

Most of our objects and artefacts are held at the V&A Museum or at our outstore in Fulham. To view material from the collection please book an appointment.

Rare books

The Rare Books Collection is among the world's finest collections of early and scarce architectural publications.

Centred around almost 5,000 volumes published between 1478 and and 1840, this collection includes many early and rare editions of seminal works on architecture - often richly illustrated - published in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States. Alongside early editions of Vitruvius, Alberti, Palladio, and Piranesi, you will find manuals and pattern books, large scale volumes on archaeology, and detailed studies of some of the most famous buildings in the world.

Rare Books are available to consult at the RIBA Library at 66 Portland Place. You do not need to book an appointment.

Architectural models

The RIBA holds around 350 unique models, representing five centuries of architectural history.

Most models in the collection were created by architects or their collaborators as a key part of their design process. A highlight is a wooden model from the 1690s of Easton Neston, a country house designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, which is one of the earliest English architectural model still in existence. Later collections include models of some of the best-known buildings of the twentieth century, from private dwellings to large scale urban developments.

The models collection is split between the Victoria and Albert Museum and our outstore in Fulham. To view material from the collection please book an appointment.

Books and Periodicals

Our Library at 66 Portland Place holds books and journals related to every aspect of architectural practice and research.

With over 150,000 books in the collection – and 100 new titles added every month – the RIBA Library is one of the leading resources in the country for the study of architecture and architectural history. The collection covers a wide range of subjects, including all building types, architectural monographs, history and theory, town planning, sustainability, and architectural law and practice. We also provide access to around 2240 periodical titles (600 current). Since the 1930s the Library has been compiling an index to these journals. This catalogue – known as the API – is an invaluable resource for scholars and others interested in architecture and related subjects.

The Library is free and open to all. Please visit the Library page for further details.

RIBA Institutional Archive

Our institutional archive documents the history of the RIBA, from the earliest foundational documents to recent publications and ephemera.

By far the largest grouping in our archives and manuscripts collection is the RIBA’s own archive, which dates back to the founding of the Institute in 1834. Covering all aspects of the RIBA’s work, from exams to exhibitions, this is an indispensable resource for the study of the architectural profession and architectural education worldwide. The Nomination Papers (application forms for membership) in particular are a unique source of biographical information on thousands of past members of the Institute.

The Institutional Archive is housed at our outstore in Fulham and at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the V&A + RIBA architecture partnership. To view items from the collections in one of our study rooms please book an appointment.

Explore the RIBA Library and Collections

Search our image library and catalogue and find out how to visit the library and view items from the Collections in person

Contact us

Public information line, open Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm

Members information line, open Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm +44 (0)20 7307 3600

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