Until SAH published its first BUS volume in 1993, the United States had been one of the few countries in the developed world without a comprehensive series of publications addressing its national architectural heritage. Taking its cue from Buildings of England by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of the United States (BUS) has begun to fill this void by documenting, state-by-state, the infinite variety and history of American architecture from pre-settlement days to the present.
Developed under the auspices of the Society of Architectural Historians, BUS eventually will encompass 60 volumes, each of which will be written by leading local and national scholars in the field and heavily illustrated with photographs and maps. A 12-member Editorial Committee drawing from institutions of higher learning from across the country as well as the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the Historic Resources Committee of the American Institute of Architects oversees the project.
The first ten volumes in the series were published by Oxford University Press. In October 2006, the Society signed a new publishing contract with the University of Virginia Press, which has published all subsequent volumes.
Sixteen volumes have been published since 1993. The first four books in the series received the R. R. Hawkins Award presented by the Association of American Publishers, and the International Book Award from the American Institute of Architects for guidebooks. Buildings of Colorado received the Western Mountain Region AIA Award of Distinction. Buildings of Louisiana received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year award in 2004.
Celebrating both high-style and vernacular architecture, every volume includes the full range of structures — from government edifices and grand private residences to gas stations and granaries — that are deemed important, especially representative of a particular style or type of building, or of other historical or architectural interest.
Intended as a resource for architectural historians, preservationists, and other professionals in the field, BUS volumes are also written to serve as comprehensive guides for the touring and general public, for use in elementary and secondary school classrooms, and for reference by community planners.
To date, more than $4.5 million has been raised for the project. Early and continuing support has come from the National Endowment for the Humanities, matched by the private sector, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Getty Foundation, the late Paul Mellon, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, and Laurance Rockefeller to name a few.