International Journal on Digital Libraries

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 289–299 | Cite as

Process, concept or thing? Some initial considerations in the ontological modelling of architecture



Architectural knowledge, representing an understanding of our built environment and how it functions, is a domain of research of high interest as much to laypeople as to architects themselves, researchers in cultural heritage in general and formal ontologists. In this work, we aim to provide an initial approach to the question of how to model architectural data in a formal ontology structure and consider some of the problems involved. This question is challenging both for the inherent difficulties of the discourse to be modelled but also for the lack of available structured data sources that would distinctly represent the architectural perspective proper, as well as for the contentious nature of the definition of architecture itself. We, therefore, take the step of exploring in broad strokes the possible approaches to architecture, tracing the notion of architecture as idea, process or thing from the literature. On the basis of this enquiry, we propose a model of some top-level referents of architecture using FRBRoo, an extension of CIDOC CRM that can be used to model creative processes. We argue that with the addition of only four classes to this model, to capture certain architecturally specific concepts and activities, we are able to provide an adequate high-level first approach to this problem. Further, by connecting this work to the existing extension of CRMba, which models built work as a system of relations of filled and unfilled spaces, there is a sufficient high-level ontological structure to begin to test for its utility to explore the issues of the relation between architecture as idea, process and thing.


Architectural documentation CIDOC CRM FRBRoo CRMba Ontological modelling 



The present work has been supported by the Marie-Curie action ITN-DCH and the ARIADNE project. The ITN-DCH project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 608013. The ARIADNE project was funded by the European Commission (Grant 313193) under the FP7 INFRA-2012-1.1.3 call. The authors’ opinion do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission. The authors are thankful to the Foundation Le Corbusier and ADAGP for the use of pictures in the present paper.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geodetic-Jamova 2University of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.ICS FORTH-N.HeraklionGreece
  3. 3.PratoItaly

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