Faculty Members Contribute to Archipedia, a State by State Architecture Guide

Faculty Members Contribute to Archipedia, a State by State Architecture Guide

By Kerry McCulloug...

October 21, 2015


Each part of the United States has an architecture and culture unique to its geographical area and has its own story to tell. The Society of Architectural Historians, with the University of Virginia Press, has created a national project, Archipedia, which gathers architectural information about historical and/or unique structures in each state. In the state of Nebraska, the task fell on the lap of Keith Sawyers, Professor Emeritus, and Peter Olshavsky, Assistant Professor, both at the UNL's College of Architecture who have been diligently working to make sure Nebraska's architecture was well represented. The pair have selected, written, photographed and created the meta-data for each of the works featured on the Archipedia site. The guide tells about featured buildings including the year built, architect, its purposes over time, structure, building type, materials and architectural style. The online project can be viewed by clicking here.

This project could definitely be described as a labor of love for both Sawyers and Olshavsky as they have spent countless hours on this project. But if users come away with a greater understanding of Nebraska architecture then that makes the project worth their efforts.

"I hope scholars, students and others interested in the study of architecture will find the content valuable due to the descriptions and photos," commented Peter Olshavsky. "Also I hope they find the Archipedia's meta-data links useful in gaining a broader understanding of American architecture and its relation to Nebraska."

One of Sawyers' and Olshavsky's aspirations for this project is to let the end-user be more than just a knowledge consumer.

"I hope the project helps shift the study and teaching of architectural history away from a focus on a small sample of signature works by giving a wider array of projects to study across the US," Olshavsky continued. "This will help people understand how architectural movements were translated into specific geographic areas and how different socio-cultural groups adopted architectural works and building technologies."

This project has had many challenges not the smallest of which is the limited selection of 100 buildings. Deciding what belonged on the list and what had to be excluded was difficult, commented Sawyers. A number of well qualified projects had to be cut especially if there was another building representing the same the geography, chronology, culture, building type, materials or style.

Finding time to travel across the state posed another challenge. Olshavsky has full-time teaching responsibility, and Sawyers is also very active with the College. In addition to Sawyers and Olshavsky, 2015 Master of Architecture graduates Kendra Heimes and Hannah Schurrer assisted with the project by taking some photos in the Northeast part of the state.

So far the team has completed over half of the project, which can be seen online. And the second half of the project is schedule to be online by early spring of 2016.

SAH Archipedia is an authoritative online encyclopedia of the built world published by the Society of Architectural Historians and the University of Virginia Press and contains histories, photographs, and maps for more than 14,000 structures and places. The free, open-access site is produced collaboratively and will continue to grow as a resource in the coming years.