Architecture Plans

Item reference LAC/99/N9 Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Item reference LAC/99/N9
Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

You might find yourself discovering architecture plans either in the collection or in another collection you are studying. The St David’s Priory Collection contains a number of architecture plans, including proposed plans; the buildings they are for range from Churches to Church Halls and school buildings. However, it is not always easy to understand what can be gained from looking at the architecture plans.

Firstly, the obvious use is that they show you what a building looks like, but it’s not quite as simple as this. Architecture plans actually show what a building was supposed to look like, they may not represent a building that was actually built, or modifications that may since have been added. From an architecture plan you can also see features of buildings that have since been torn down, and therefore you can imagine a structure that no longer exists. This can add a whole new dimension to the study of a collection such as St David’s Priory, where though the Church itself still stands, other buildings associated with it, such as the school, have gone.

Item reference LAC/99/N9 Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Item reference LAC/99/N9
Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Some of the architecture plans in the collection show buildings that still stand. In these cases it is not just possible to imagine yourself standing in front of the building, but to go to the building itself and stand in front of it. In these cases, it is good to look for similarities and differences. If you only have a single architecture plan, though, you cannot always tell if adaptions have been made at a later date, or if the plan was changed before building took place. The proposed Church Hall at Sketty depicts a building that strongly resembles the building that still stands in Sketty.[1] There are a few differences, though, so it is not certain if the plan was adapted again before it was built, or if the changes came in a renovation. Through these plans we see a snapshot of the history.

Architecture plans can also be used to see what period style a building was trying to imitate. This is fairly common, especially with churches; it is used to make the church look like it’s much older than it is. The St David’s Priory collection, for example, contains a proposed gothic church to be built in Sketty.[2] This church was never built, since the plan was rejected, but by looking at the plan it is possible to see what the architect imagined and the style that the Church rejected. It can also be compared with the church that stands in Sketty today, which is vastly different from the gothic architecture plan. Knowing what was rejected is often just as important in knowing what was built when understanding what style was chosen for the church.

Sometimes a plan can be quite minimalist and without contextualising material it can be difficult to place the drawing. Normally, however, they have a ground plan, and an elevation, and these can be pieced together to see what the building looked like, or what it was envisioned to look like, in the case of rejected plans. Often they contain information within the ground plan as to the purpose of the rooms, such as labelling which schoolroom is to teach boys and which is to teach girls, but this is not consistent and labelling can be scarce.


Item reference LAC/99/N7 Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Some architecture plans in the collection detail what are only temporary structures, such as the architectural plan of the temporary wooden church, but the plan shows a high level of detail.[3] In plans like this one it is almost possible to walk around the church exterior, to imagine yourself standing in front of it, frozen in a moment of history or possibility, and see it as it would have been, despite the fact that it was only a short lived structure.

Do not discount architecture plans even if you are not interested in the structures of the building. Surprising details crop up in architecture plans, like the price of slate for the roof, which have been written on the architecture plans after it is creation, possibly by a contractor, scribbling down a note while talking to someone and finding the plan to hand. This can help show the cost of at least one element of the building process, and could even link to financial records, depending on the collection you are looking at.

[1] LAC/99/N9, RBA, Swansea University.

[2] LAC/99/N8. RBA, Swansea University.

[3] LAC/99/N7. RBA, Swansea University.


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