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CEE 262: Structures and the Urban Environment: Sample Search Strategy

A guide to library resources that address technical, social and symbolic aspects of structures.

Puente del Alamillo: Context

Why was Calatrava Selected? Why this kind of Bridge? Where does the bridge fit within the larger category of Cable-Stayed Bridges?

Providing context present-day for your structure will likely take you in any number of directions. Below are a few examples:

Books+: Try a subject search for the name of your structure, in this case "Puente del Alamillo." For lesser known structures, this approach does not always work. Be sure to also "browse" a subject for your engineer or architect and review that list of subjects returned.  Combined keyword searches are a great way to harvest the catalog for related subjects.  For example, "bridges architecture aesthetics" combined keyword retrieves the following titles:

Calatrava bridges
Bridgescape : the art of designing bridges
Bridges (D. Brown)

Indexes: The real subject specific information will be found in the subject specific databases (as opposed to a broad Articles+ search). Apply many of the same terms used in the Books+ searches to these indexes.  You will also be able to apply more focused keywords or subject headings, e.g. Cable-stayed bridges -- Spain -- Seville -- Puente del Alamillo or "Calatrava AND bridge AND competition" or  Engineers -- Spain -- Calatrava, Santiago.

Puente del Alamillo: Criticism

What was the local reaction? Critical response among architects, engineers, or city planners? How does this bridge compare to Calatrava's other works? 

The quickest way to get to criticism or interpretation of a structure or building is to use those very terms in a subject search, e.g. Calatrava, Santiago, 1951- -- Criticism and interpretation.

Journals and newspaper articles are also an important source for critical response and it is a good idea to reach beyond the traditional architecture or engineering databases to discover broader opinions. Determine if you can cross-search a number of databases within a single platform like Ebsco or Proquest. Lexis Nexis also search thousands of news blogs that are not indexed anywhere else. 

Puente del Alamillo: Visuals

Where to find renderings, plans, drawings, computer files, and other visual representations of Calatrava's bridge. 

In many cases, it is easy enough to google for images of a structure. There are also loads of collections and databases that freely provide images for structures such as Great Buildings Online, ArchNet, and WikiArchitectura that offer not just images or plans but in some cases access to the design files. But don't forget about the riches pusblished in print resources! Most indexes like Avery or Applied Science and Technology Index will note if an article includes images, drawings, axonometric plans, etc. The SAH Archipedia offers images as well as a thorough analysis of selected structures (buildings, bridges, ampitheaters, etc.) in the U.S.

You may also want visuals of materials used in the building process.  The Material Connexton database offers exactly that - images of material smaples used for all sorts of building and design projects. 

Engineering and technical aspects

Technical specifications and engineering solutions for structures should be explored in a specialized database, such as Engineering Index, also known as  Compendex (EI Compendex Plus) 1884+ an extensive bibliographic database of engineering research, which indexes journal papers and conference proceedings. The broad subject areas of engineering and applied science are comprehensively represented. For Compendex, you can start with a Subject/Title/Abstract/ keyword search but to focus your results, use the Controlled Vocabulary filter.

More sources to explore are listed in the Civil Engineering subject category of the library web site. 

Economic impact

What is the economic impact of a structure or development on the city/region?

To answer this question you will need to search a database such as ABI/Informwhich covers worldwide business and economics literature. You can start with a general keyword search, and if needed, revise by searching in the subject field (SU) using the name of the structure or the name of the artist and then use the Sort results feature to limit results for a specific subject area, to a person or to a location.


Environmental impact

What is the environmental impact of a structure/development?

To answer this question, you need to search Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management  , a compilation of 12 databases including Water Resources Abstracts and Pollution Abstracts, containing journal articles and technical reports. The same search principles apply: start with a general keyword search and if needed, revise by using a subject keyword search and then use the Sort results feature to narrow down your search. More sources for analyzing environmental impacts (if any) for major structures can be found in the Environment subject category for library databases. Depending on the topic, you may need to try more than one database to identify relevant information.