[freearchitecture] Detail libraries

Bruno Postle bruno at postle.net
Sun Feb 9 20:23:26 GMT 2003

On Sat 08-Feb-2003 at 09:21:44 +0000, Chris Croome wrote:
> On Fri 07-Feb-2003 at 07:06:12PM -0500, digitect at mindspring.com
> wrote:
> > I heartily agree. Just wondering how I would convice an employer
> > to allow me to draw details that would be "donated" to the project
> > where they could immediately be used by the competition.

> OK, it was the public sector rather than the private sector but
> there were still things like detail books that were compiled from
> projects that the GLC (Greater London Council) had done -- these
> details books were used by people in both the private and public
> sector.

The GLC detail books were a conscious attempt to produce a modern
"pattern book"; 18th and 19th century builders and clients would
typically produce a design for a house completely through references
to these pattern books.

Pattern books contained all sorts of things, but mainly they were
collections of proven designs (often with ideas borrowed and
improved from other pattern books), basically floor plans and
construction details.  In an era where contractors, site workmen and
clients were often illiterate, they formed the basis of the building

The production of pattern books was intensely competitive, with lots
of rivalry between publishers to copy the latest fashions; this is
the reason why buildings from this era are so easy to date.

There are probably lots of parallels that can be drawn between this
older pattern book world and the modern free software industry.

Pattern books eventually died out.  I think partly this was because
of the rise of the architect as a professional, who also considered
himself an artist, and so needed produce all the drawings for a
project (there was a corresponding lack of attention to construction
detailing).  The rest of the industry also became industrialised,
with large building firms effectively maintaining their own pattern
books without reference to architects.

Hmm, that's actually a description of the state of the modern
commercial software industry.

I think a modern-day online pattern book of detailing "best
practice", produced by and for architects; but accessed, maintained,
documented and improved using techniques drawn from the
free-software world could be incredibly effective - The problem
would be getting other people to agree :-).

(There's another more serious problem, which is the absolute
unsuitability of current CAD file formats for this sort of thing)

> Building component companies, generally make digital details
> available for inclusion into architects drawings

In my experience, these details are universally garbage, either the
manufacturer tries to push their own product by introducing specific
construction techniques, or they are simply useless, displaying a
complete lack of understanding of the real requirements.  Any usable
detail library needs to be produced by the people who actually need
and use the information.


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