Knowledge Management for the South African Architectural Profession, based on a Local Case Study

By Johanna Johnson.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Traditionally, architectural archives serve as a repository of knowledge which supports architects in developing a frame of reference. They also have the function of preservation. In the developed world, these archives of architectural knowledge have been established for public use, whilst the developing world generally lacks these repositories. With South Africa being a developing country in a third world, its history of architecture is scarcely documented. Therefore, core knowledge-assets for the profession in this part of the world have been neglected.

This paper explores the challenges facing Architecture libraries, professionally and academically, in maintaining service excellence considering the special user needs of architects and planners, in the context of digitisation. Recently published material is reviewed to provide a broad international perspective of challenges facing libraries generally, and then applied in a review of cases i) internationally, and ii) locally of libraries servicing the Built Environment. These are then considered for the case study experience of the University of the Witwatersrand Built Environment Library, in reshaping its resources to add value to its service by making a contribution to the digital environment.

‘Visual thinking’ as part of the design process is supported and stimulated by the use of ‘visual’ impressions. These specialist information needs of architecture- and planning professionals, lecturers and students are not readily catered for by South African libraries. Digitisation as a method of preservation of the South African building heritage is underdeveloped, or even non-existent in Africa. Digitisation attempts by several South African Architectural Institutions are explored in this paper, with reference to existing websites, highlighting specific examples. Digitisation projects for the University of the Witwatersrand Built Environment Library are then suggested. Through collaboration on international level, a portal website is proposed for managing this knowledge. The paper illustrates how core assets – knowledge captured in relevant design examples and research articles – retain their value by being used in new ways. These assets are thereby preserved and also used for re-structuring key-relationships. In the process, value is extracted from core resources.

Keywords: Architectural Archives, Architecture Libraries

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.79-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 490.108KB).

Johanna Johnson

Librarian, Architecture Librarian for the Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa


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