Madeline Cohen, BMC ’24

Architectural Drawings: Cataloguing Lower Merion Township’s Archive

Semester: Spring 2023

Praxis Course: Praxis II – CITY 350 Urban Projects

Faculty Advisor: Jeff Cohen

Field Site: Lower Merion Township

Field Supervisor: Greg Prichard

Praxis Poster:

Maddie Cohen_Praxis Poster_Final


Further Context:

Hi, my name is Madeline Cohen, and I am a junior Growth and Structure of Cities major at Bryn Mawr College. I am interested in pursuing a career in architecture. This semester I worked at Lower Merion Township in the Building and Planning Department cataloguing their architectural drawings archive. The archive is made up of thousands of drawings from the 1920’s until today, collected for the purpose of regulating building. Historic Preservation Planner Greg Prichard is working to catalogue all these projects and I had the opportunity to help him.

Cataloguing architectural drawings is important for the preservation of documents for future generations to use and learn from. Such architectural drawing sets preserve records of the form of building at their genesis- buildings that inevitably change and often disappear over time. Cataloguing them makes these records discoverable by researchers. Researchers can locate specific projects through attributes such as location, date, architect, client, and purpose.

These records are valuable to the township’s officials. They serve as evidence of the built fabric as it has evolved over decades. Architects, engineers, and landscape architects use the records for projects they are working on near a property or on a property. Researchers use the records for tracking the constantly evolving physical history of places within the Lower Merion Township.

The drawings I was cataloguing were between 1937 and 1938. The archive is organized on shelves by project number. The database I was working in was Excel. For each project within the Excel spreadsheet, I record the project number, title, address building type, number of sheets, sheet contents, seal date, drawing date, architect, and builder. The buildings catalogued in the spreadsheet so far are primarily residential but there are some academic, commercial, and public buildings included as well. The drawings within each project typically include plans, elevations, sections, and plot plans.

This semester while working at Lower Merion Township I have learned about the history of buildings and planning in the township and how to identify development patterns within specific time periods. In addition, I had more exposure and practice to reading architectural drawings which will help me with my career goals. I improved my database management and Excel skills. I also met a lot of great people and made friends while gaining experience working in an office setting.