Getting started with your architecture research
The Alexander Turnbull Library and National Library hold a lot of material relating to architecture, architects, building construction, private houses and public buildings. We also have substantial records relating to engineering, city planning and surveying.
If you’re looking for information and images about a particular building try entering the building name, or the street name, the name of other prominent buildings near your building, and the name of the architect or architectural firm if you know it into the search box.
If you don’t find any images relating to the street you are interested in, try searching under the suburb name and narrow your search results by selecting a time period.
See other articles in this section for specific advice on finding maps, plans, articles, oral histories and photographs relating to architecture. Please feel free to ask a librarian anytime!
Books and Articles relating to Architecture
The National Library holds runs of New Zealand and international Architectural journals. Some of these you will need to request to see at the Library and some will be available as full-text either from home or in the Library. Watch out for older journals which can provide historic context - such as the Architectural Record, a New York journal which runs from 1891 to the present day. The Library also holds a large amount of serials that are aimed more at the home owner than the home designer. To find some of this type of serial, try searching under ‘domestic architecture.’
If you’re looking for a book published in New Zealand about architecture, we’ll have a copy! Try selecting ‘books’ from the top left hand side of the results screen to see only books relating to your search term.
Finding architectural plans, maps, diagrams and specifications
There are many amazing unpublished architectural resources in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.
To find architectural plans or diagrams, refine by format type images, or visit our ‘Drawings, Paintings and Prints’ collection page and run a search only on that collection - which contains approximately 30,000 architectural plans. Most have come in as large groups from major Wellington architectural firms, the main ones being:
- Bulleyment Fortune, and its predecessors
- Gooch, Mitchell and MacDiarmid Ltd
- Toomath Wilson Irvine Anderson
- Alington Group Architects
- Perry Martin Hill & Synaxon Group Architects
To find the records of architectural firms and engineering companies as well as individual files concerning one particular house or building permit, refine your search by selecting ‘Manuscripts’ (to the left on your results screen) or visit our ‘Manuscripts’ collection page and run a search only on that collection.
These records are less likely to be digitised than photographs, so don’t worry if you get no results in the ‘Gallery’ - there may still be plenty of visual material you can request to see at the Library.
Talking about buildings – Oral histories about architecture
The Oral History Centre in the Alexander Turnbull Library is a rich source of modern-era history. If you haven’t used oral histories before, here is some information about finding and using these unique resources.
Some oral history projects about architecture, architects and housing are listed below. Each of these projects contains many interviews.
New Zealand architecture post-World War II oral history project
Bruce Petry, 1992
Reference number: OHColl-0308
Interviewees are Bill Toomath, William Sutcliffe, Gerhard Rosenberg, Ian Reynolds, James Garrett, James Foote, Eric Dawson, Lillian Chrystall, Ron Beatson and Anthony Treadwell.
New Zealand Institute of Architects Oral History Project (Jerome Cvitanovich, Joanne Aitken, 27 Sept 1995, 19 Mar 1997)
Reference number: OHColl-0413
A project of life history interviews with Wellington architects. Interviewees are Douglas Beere, Allott Gabites, Lewis Martin, Bruce Orchiston and Derek Wilson.
‘Back to the drawing board' Hamilton architects oral history project
Athol Attwood, Julie Brinkworth, Heidi Mardon, Laura Kellaway, Fiona Corcoran and Jeff Downs, 1998-1999
Reference number: OHColl-0483
Interviews 19 Hamilton architects about aspects of their work (one interview is a joint interview). Interviewees are Frank (Andy) Anderson, Errol Care-Cottrell, Mary de Lisle, Aubrey de Lisle, Tom Flood, Rodney Smith, John Griffiths, Warwick Kellaway, John Griffiths, Steve Mrkusic, Vaclovas Procuta, Michael Graves, David Sayers, Shirley Penfold, Arthur (Ted) Hill, Alan Macdonald, Geoff Marden, Laura Kellaway and Shirley Penfold, and Rosemary and Adam Mercer.
Early Architectural Centre oral history project
Jan Staffan, June Bastings, Robert Fantl, and Lesleigh Salinger, June 2000-June 2002
Reference number: OHColl-0773
Nineteen interviews about the early years of the Architectural Centre in Wellington. Interviewees talk about their lives and their involvement in the organisation. Interviewees are: William Alington, June Bastings, James Beard, Doreen Blumhardt, Richard Cockcroft, Ester Einhorn, Robert Fantl, John Gates, Avis Higgs, Roderick Hull, Marjory Nees, Ian Reynolds, Peter Sheppard, William (Bill) Toomath, Anthony Treadwell, Allan Wild, Patricia Drawbridge Wild, Derek Wilson and June Basting with Marjorie Nees (joint interview)
The founding of landscape architecture in New Zealand oral history project
Shona McCahon, 1 Aug 2006 - 18 Dec 2006
Reference number: OHColl-0857
Interviews with six men who were founding members and members of the first executive committee of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA) and who were significantly involved in the establishment and development of the landscape architectural profession in New Zealand. The recollections include horticultural aspects, teaching to students and the evolution over time of landscape architecture in New Zealand. Interviewees are Neil Aitken, Frank Boffa, Charlie Challenger, Robin Gay, Tony Jackman and George Malcolm.
Interview with John Scott and Luciano Fan
Ray Grover, 15 Jul 1973
Reference number: OHColl-0042/1
Interview with two architects, John Scott and Luciano Fan, concerning the role and function of the architect in society and the present of New Zealand architecture.
Photographs by architects, photographs of architecture
Photographs of value to people interested in architecture are diffused throughout the Library's photographic collections. They range from general views of cities, towns and countryside, to portraits of individual buildings, their construction, interiors, and in some cases, plans as well. Although we have digitised large amounts of images from our collections, huge amounts are still available only in print or negative form. This is an area where it is worth digging for gold!
The following architects have collections of their own photographs which have been deposited with the Alexander Turnbull Library; Cedric Firth, Frederick Newman, Charles Daniell, Duncan Winder, Rodney Cook, Edmond Anscumbe. There are also many photographers who have deposited collections with us that focus on buildings, the process of building, and the history of building. For example, Wayne Shepherd, who deposited a collection of 2,545 colour slides of Wellington buildings taken between 965 and 1995 (reference number: PA-Group-00086).
Further sources for architectural information
There are many different places to find information about buildings, architects, and structural design. Your local city council archive will be able to provide architectural plans and building specifications that are submitted as part of their building content records. Archives New Zealand holds old public works department plans and other information about public buildings such as schools. Universities who have an architecture school, such as the University of Auckland, often have specialist libraries.