Skip to Main Content
site header image

Sketchbooks Research Guide

20th-century Architecture and Design Sketchbooks

Alongside painters, printmakers, and sculptors, architects and practitioners of various applied arts have also used sketchbooks well into the 20th century. The GRI holds numerous sketchbooks of modern architects and designers, often acquired as part of their archives or papers (see the related research guide for Architecture & Design Collections). Many of these sketchbooks show an increased focus on the maker’s creative process and exploration of conceptual ideas, expressed in images and texts.

Pickford Waller (1872-1927), a prolific English artist, established a design firm that produced several thousand watercolor designs. 28 sketchbooks made between 1896-1926 in Art Nouveau style mainly record designs for book covers, book plates, and page borders. (850360)


German architect Hans Poelzig (1869-1936) was the director of the architecture department of the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin and an influential member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen). His sketchbook contains drawings for various architectural projects from the 1920s. (870640*)

J. J. P. Oud (1890-1963), the celebrated Dutch architect and proponent of the De Stijl movement, made seven sketchbooks now in the GRI collection, which include designs for chairs, staircases, and lamps for the Nieuw Amsterdam ocean liner (1937) and extensive travel sketches from the 1950s and 1960s. (890126**)

Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) was an Italian architect and founding member of La Tendenza, an architectural movement that criticized “avant-garde” Modernism and instead advocated for a politically and socially “realist” type of architecture. He was a prolific writer and theorist, as reflected in the more conceptual architectural drawings found in five sketchbooks that date from the early 1980s. (880319, Box 20)

The American architect Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012) founded the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture in 1988, a nonprofit institution devoted to the advancement of experimental architectural thought and practice. This sketchbook from his time in Los Angeles (1986-88) contains a mix of his theoretical writings and exploratory designs. (2018.M.25)

Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind (1946-) has designed monuments around the world, most notably a succession of museums from 1998 to 2007. A series of sketchbooks, spanning the years 1988-1992, include his (ultimately successful) competition designs for the Jewish Museum in Berlin. (920061, Boxes 5-9)