During the design process architects and students often study the plans of buildings that have already been built or designed. Such information is available conventionally as a form of collective memory in architectural monographs and journals as well on the internet. For the purposes of targeted research, however, the accessibility of these sources is hampered by an inconsistent use of terminology and a lack of structured, non-subjective metadata.

For the development of society in the media age, the organisation of knowledge and the ability to find relevant knowledge is essential, not just for research purposes but also in economic and social terms. Knowledge is generally regarded as useful information. However, the literature does not elaborate clear differentiations between what is knowledge, and what is information and data. In our view it is the preparation of information in data structures that makes it useful as knowledge.

Our goal is to support the early stages of the design process using information technology in order to find similar built architectural solutions as a source of inspiration, an explicit solution, or a means to better understand current design problems. The iterative nature of the design process results in a continuous exchange between creative, analytical and evaluation stages to select the most promising design variations.

To formalize architectural situations digitally we propose to create semantic fingerprints of buildings, to be used to identify a building as we use actual fingerprints to identify of individuals. In order to map the spatial structure of architectural situations, graph-based approaches are being investigated to mathematically represent fingerprints for information such as space and their connections, alignment, orientation or urban integration.