Graphic Standards From Across The Pond

Here in the US, the book we primarily turn to for all questions of an architectural nature is the AIA Architectural Graphic Standards. For our work, the third and fifth editions are the most informative because they were printed at a time when architects had to draw everything rather than order most elements pre-made. If you happen to be drawing up European architecture, though, it won’t do you much good.

In the rest of the world, the architectural book most people turn to for similar answers is Neufert’s Architectural Data. Soon to be released in it’s 40th edition, the book is printed in 18 languages and is the architectural Bible in the metric world.

Ernst Neufert

Ernst Neufert worked at the Bauhaus as chief architect under Walter Gropius and later taught at the Bauhochschule until the Nazis closed it down in the early 1930’s. Seeing the need for a book that graphically laid out the architectural standards of the time, the book was first printed in 1936 and soon became a big success. Like Graphic Standards, the book is mainly a visual reference of architectural design and space standards for the European continent.

The book has had a number of English language editions, but the 1998 International is the most useful and easiest to use for the metrically-challenged. A large number of each edition are printed so it should be fairly easy to find used copies. You may have better luck throught British booksellers than second-hand businesses here.

kitchen standards from an earlier edition

In Britain, The book many people refer to is McKay’s Building Construction. Originally published in three volumes over an eight year period, the recent re-publication has combined them into one book. The books are so popular in England that when they briefly went out of print, students were encourage to beg, borrow or steal to get a set.

page on hand-cut stonework

Written by W.B. McKay, who was Head of the Building Department at both Leeds and Manchester colleges, the book is particularly useful for our business as it shows and describes exactly how the various methods of construction (wood and masonry ) are carried out. Filled with hundreds of beautiful perspective drawings by McKay, the book takes up where Graphic Standards ends.

Like Neufert’s, this can be had in used editions, the most recent from 2004. I found my copy in a bookstore in New Delhi, India, so you may have to search around. This is definitely a book that is worth the search.

If you’re in a hurry, you can order it here.

methods of forming masonry openings

Required Reading – “Backstage Handbook”

You can never have enough good reference books. Even with the seemingly endless information that’s available on the internet, having a good reference book close at hand can save you hours of searching internet sites for a critical bit of knowledge.

There are certain books that are part of my kit that I make sure to always have with me because the information they contain is so useful and job-specific that I’m sure I’ll refer to them numerous times during a show.

One of these is the Backstage Handbook. It’s subtitle, “An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information”,  is a perfect description of it’s contents. Profusely illustrated with crisp black and white drawings, the book is a visual reference of hardware, materials and architectural elements. Written by  Paul Carter, the book was originally written for those in live theater. Now in it’s third edition, the book includes chapters that pertain more to film work as well.

I’m now on my third copy of the book as they often fall apart from heavy use. The book becomes my repository for notes, tables and other bits of technical info that I want to keep in one place.

It’s a nice compact volume that provides a quick way to look up typical fasteners, steel sizes, material weights and sizes and a lot of other information you’ll often need without resorting to sifting through a McMaster-Carr catalogue or various other books.

It’s published by Broadway Press and retails for $18, although you can sometimes find it cheaper through Amazon. This is definitely a book you should own.