UCB Libraries

Beijing National Stadium

Beijing National Stadium

photo by Francisco Diez

ARTH 4929: Contemporary Architecture







  • Starting Your Research
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Images
  • Evaluate & Cite Your Sources


Choosing Your Paper Topic

Before you start your research, take some time to think about what you find interesting or compelling about the particular piece of architecture, landscape architecture, or urbanism you are studying.


For example, if I had chosen to write about the Beijing National Stadium (Bird's Nest), I might be interested in how the forms of the building borrow from Chinese ceramics, the involvement of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, or a comparison of this structure to other Olympic facilities.


If you would like to learn more about an architect or a particular piece of the built environment, you may want to do a bit of preliminary reading before you begin writing your paper.


Finding Basic Information in Reference Sources

Reference sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias are a valuable tool for learning more about the work or the architect you have chosen. These sources can provide basic information to place your topic in a larger historical, theoretical, or formal context.


Oxford Art Online

Provides access to the Grove Dictionary of Art, an most important reference work for art history, which also has good coverage for architectural history. Individual entries are written by scholars in the field and typically include a bibliography of relevant resources.


The Art & Architecture Reference Collection contains a number of specialized dictionaries and encylopedias. Please feel free to browse the collection to see what is available. Examples of the kinds of works you will find include:


Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Art & Arch REF NA31 .C86 2006


The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail

Art & Arch REF NA2850 .E44 2005


Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture

Art & Arch REF NA680 .E495 2004


Dictionary of Architectural and Building Technology

Art & Arch REF NA31 .C63 2004


Encyclopedia of the Vernacular Architecture of the World

Art & Arch REF NA208 .E53 1997


Multi-volume sets on the work of Aalto, Corbusier, Kahn, Mies, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Buckminster Fuller are located on a red shelf next to the current journals in the Art & Architecture Collection.


This is a small selection of the electronic and print resources available in the Art & Architecture Reference Collection.


Developing Keywords

Choosing appropriate search terms is an important first step in the research process. Take a few moments to brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic. This list could include the architect's name, other architects associated with the project, the building's name (and any alternate names it might have), its location, significant materials, stylistic features, etc.


Building Name: Beijing National Stadium

Alternate Name: Bird's Nest

Architect's Name: Herzog & de Meuron

Associated Architects: Stefan Marbach, China Architecture Design & Research Group
Location: Beijing, China

Related Buildings/Events: 2008 Summer Olympics


When searching for books, articles, and other material, the architect's name, the building's name, and the location will likely be the most useful search terms, though you will often need to narrow your search (especially for articles) using other terms as well. Taking time to think about other aspects (materials, concepts, etc.) can be helpful for organizing potential ideas for your paper or project.




Chinook is the catalog for materials owned by the CU Libraries. You can do a title search for a specific book, or a keyword search if you are looking for books on a particular topic. You can also use MyChinook to manage your library account (including renewals, holds, recalls, saved searches, etc.)

Chinook Catalog

When searching Chinook, you can connect your keywords using terms like AND, OR, NOT. You can also used parentheses, quotation marks, and asterisks.




AND: Beijing AND stadium (must find both terms)

Phrases: “Beijing National Stadium” (must find phrase in that order)

OR: Bird's Nest OR stadium (must find one of the terms)

Synonyms: (Bird's Nest OR stadium) AND architecture

NOT: architecture NOT computing (must find first term and not second term)

Wildcards: moderni* will find modernism, modernist, modernity, etc.


If you search Chinook and find that the CU Libraries do not have the item you are looking for (or if the item you are looking for is checked out), you can search Prospector, which is a combined library catalog of 23 libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. CU students, staff and faculty can request materials through Prospector, and the items will generally be delivered to Norlin within a few business days.



WorldCat is an online catalog for over 9,000 libraries in the US and world wide, and it allows you to do a more thorough search than Chinook because you are not limited to only the items we already own. Instead, you are effectively searching the catalogs of most major libraries world wide.


For any books you find in WorldCat, you will be able to see if CU-Boulder owns that item. If you find something in WorldCat that we do not own, you should:

  1. Search Prospector to see if the book is available. If it is, request it via Prospector. The book will typically arrive in a few days, and you'll receive an email when it is ready for pick up.
  2. If the book isn't available via Prospector, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Please be aware that items ordered via ILL can take up to several weeks to arrive. Obviously, if your assignment is due very soon, this will not be an option.


Interlibrary Loan
If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Generally, an ILL request will take longer to be delivered than material requested through Prospector.



Accessing Resources from Off Campus
In order to use the databases listed below (and any other licensed resources provided by the library), you MUST download, install, and run VPN software. For more information about VPN, please see the library's page on Off Campus Access.


Choosing a Database

You will not find articles in Chinook. In order to find individual articles on your topic, you will need to use a database. The library provides access to hundreds of databases, and many of them focus on a particular discipline such art, art history, or architecture.


The Find Articles & More page provides access to all of these resources and arranges them by topic. To see databases for architecture, click on the plus sign next to "Architecture, Environmental Design, and Planning."


Relevant Databases for Your Assignment

Art Bibliographies Modern
ABM covers journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art, including some coverage for architecture.


Art Full Text
An excellent general resource for art, art history, architecture, and related topics.  Covers a range of media in all periods, with publications going back to 1929.


Avery Index

The Avery Index is the most comprehensive database for researching architecture, landscape architecture, and the built environment. It includes citations and abstracts from books, journal and magazine articles, essays, exhibition catalogs, dissertations, and websites. It is also an excellent source of plans, sections, elevations, and drawings.


Design & Applied Arts Index

Excellent resource for scholarship on design topics, including interior design, furniture, metals, ceramics, industrial design, product design, landscape architecture, and related topics in the the applied arts.



Provides full text access to a number of important journals for architectural history, including Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Grey Room, and several others.



Nearly one million images of visual and material culture, covering all geographic areas and historical periods. ARTstor is the best resource for finding high-quality images of art and architecture. VPN required for off-campus access.


Maintained by the College of Architecture & Planning Visual Resource Center, this collection of over 46,000 images focuses specifically on architecture, landscape architecture, and the built environment. VPN required for off-campus access.


Search for images from the Associated Press. Useful for finding images from newspapers, magazines, wires, etc. VPN required for off-campus access.


Use the advanced search options to find larger, higher quality images.


Another very useful source for images of architecture. Note that user-contributed photos vary in quality. Flickr Commons contains images from photographic archives, museums, and libraries.



Scholarly vs. Popular Sources





Original research presented with evidence, critical arguments, and other material.

Discussion includes personal opinions, and typically focuses on material for entertainment or leisure.


Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise.

Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.


Editorial board is listed on cover or near the Table of Contents. Some publications may also note that articles are refereed by peer reviewers.

No editors listed and no referee process described.


Scholars, researchers, students.

General public; the interested non-specialist.


May use specialized terminology.

Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.

References (Endnotes, Footnotes, etc)

Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. A bibliography is also usually included.

Rare. Little, if any, information about sources.


Contribute to your understanding of the text; could include diagrams, charts, or other technical material.

Often merely provide pleasing visual content rather than support for assertions in the text.

Example Publication

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH)



Citation Styles & Management

For information about citing print and electronic sources in a range of styles, see “How to Cite a Source.”


Using MLA Style? See the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Using Chicago Style?  See the Chicago Style Quick Guide or the full version of the Chicago Manual of Style.


Writing a longer paper and need to keep track of citations? RefWorks is a web-based citation management tool that allows you to save citations and retrieve them later using "Find it at CU" buttons. Citations from most databases can be easily exported directly to RefWorks.


Need More Help?

Wondering if you're citing something correctly? Or maybe you need help with structuring your paper? Take advantage of the CU Writing Center. Making an appointment with a consultant at the Writing Center allows you to receive one-on-one help with your writing.


Want to speak with a librarian right now? You can contact us in person, via the phone, or even over IM. Use the Ask Us page to chat with a librarian even if you're away from campus.