Cataloguing the research materials in Charles' archive

The Architectural Library at The Cosmic House was built to be Charles' study, where he could work surrounded by a 'village of bookcases' - the bookhouses - and two steel skyscrapers - the slidescrapers. The bookhouses were designed to be unique, each one in a style appropriate to the subject of the books contained within it. However by the time of the publication of Towards A Symbolic Architecture (1985) Charles was already aware of the shortcomings of his system:

'Naturally' he wrote, 'there is a problem: a library expands and so may never fit perfectly in the spaces'.

Needless to say, the library continued to expand throughout Charles' life, eventually also occupying the shelves in Winter, Spring and Nan's Room, bookcases within the garage (now the Gallery) as well as an outbuilding at Portrack in Scotland. Not only are many of the books heavily annotated and labelled with post-it notes but Charles tucked manuscript notes, correspondence, ephemera and documents inside the books as a form of filing. They therefore form a substantial portion of his archive.

In 2015 Charles worked with Megan Burke to arrange his library and archive, bringing together materials related to the various editions of his books, as well as creating thematic labels for the shelves. His interests had developed significantly since the creation of the bookhouses and so, for example, the 1930s Moderne and Anonymous 1960s bookhouses now contained his extensive collection of publications on Japanese architecture, a subject that hadn't been considered in the original design.

While archival cataloguing usually prioritises the intellectual arrangement of the material over its physical order, in this case the two are concurrent. You will therefore find the books listed on the catalogue as they are arranged on the shelves, with Charles' labels interspersed between them. Labels were sometimes placed at the start of a category and sometimes in the middle - therefore rather than the archivist making a judgement as to which books relate to that category, the researcher is asked to decide for themselves. Volumes which are annotated or contain archival material are indicated accordingly, and the archive can be browsed by these criteria.

Cataloguing of Charles' library will take many years and only a few shelves have been completed so far. Additional records will be added to the catalogue regularly, on a shelf-by-shelf basis.

Meanwhile a skeleton catalogue has been produced for the slides within the Modern and Traditional slidescrapers and the Large Desk. As with the books, these follow the physical arrangement of the slides, allowing the researcher to decide for themselves the common theme between the boxes in each drawer. As a first step the catalogue lists Charles' own labels and annotations on the slide boxes, with abbreviations (and mis-spellings) elaborated through People & Organisations and Places indexes where possible. The majority of the slides are photographs which Charles took himself, and were not only a visual reference library but used to illustrate his publications. Further cataloguing and digitisation of the individual slides themselves will follow at a later date.

To browse the Research Materials, please follow this link.

The Architectural Library is open to the public as part of visiting The Cosmic House; however visitors are asked to not open drawers or take books off the shelves. If you would like to use the books and slides listed in the Research Materials, please book a Research Appointment with the archive.