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Building and Landscape Types: Precedents

This is a general and introductory guide to information sources on architectural and landscape architecture precedents, typologies, and building and landscape types, with a focus on the United States.


"The term precedent … refers to a representation of the knowledge about a past design in a form that makes it applicable or 'reusable', in new, but similar problem situations." (Classification of Precedents, Z. Aygen and U. Flemming, Pittsburgh: School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University. [1998?].

"To raise the question of typology in architecture is to raise a question of the nature of the architectural work itself…. What then is type? It can most simply be defined as a concept which describes a group of objects characterized by the same formal structure…. Architecture … is not only described by types, it is also produced through them." (Rafael Moneo, "On Typology," Oppositions n. 13:23, Summer, 1978.) Architecture students should have the "Ability to incorporate relevant precedents into architecture and urban design projects." (NAAB student performance criteria 11,Use of Precedents.)

  1. Something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind: an authoritative example
  2. the norm for subsequent practice set by such a precedent
  3. prevailing custom established by long practice
  4. a person or thing serving as a model. (Webster's Unabridged online UCB Only.)

Search Terms

Use these terms as subject words or keywords to find additional publications.

Terms designated "LC" are official Library of Congress subject terms which can be used in searching OskiCat and Melvyl, the library catalogs, and may also be useful as subject or keywords in searching periodical indexes.

Look for the truncation or wildcard symbol in each database you search (usually * or ?) to find variations of words, e.g., singular, plural, adjective form.

Architectural design (LC) 
Architectural design--History (LC) 
Architecture and history (LC) 
Architecture--Composition, proportion, (LC) 
Architecture--Philosophy (LC) 
Architecture--Theory (LC) 
Precedent, architectural 
Prototype buildings

Overview and General Works

PRECEDENTS: Overviews & General Works (a brief selection)
  • American gardens and their European precedents: tradition and strategy / Joanna Lombard. Oz/College of Architecture and Design Kansas State University, v. 8:20-25, 1986.
  • Archetypes in architecture. Thomas Thiis-Evensen. Oslo: Norwegian University Press; Oxford: Oxford University Press [distributor], 1987.
  • "Architectural Precedent," by Hentie Louw, in Companion to Contemporary Architectural Thought. London, N.Y.: Routledge, 1993:181. See also additional articles in this section, p. 183-242.
  • Lessons on the use of historic precedents. Linda N. Groat. Milwaukee, WI: Center for Architecture and Urban Planning Research, University of Wisconsin, 1984. Publications in architecture and urban planning. Working paper WP84-4.
  • "Precedent and invention," in Harvard architecture review, v. 5: 1986. Twelve separate articles on architectural precedents and types. Excellent bibliographies.
  • Precedents in architecture: analytic diagrams, formative ideas, and partis. Roger H. Clark, Michael Pause. 3rd ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2005. Part I analyzes 104 buildings, including plans and illustrations. Part 2 identifies formative ideas or typologies. Covers Renaissance through 1990s.

History and Theory