A hierarchical systems architecture is being described, which introduces separated levels for picture data processing, control, and management, respectively. The system is distributed with respect to the picture signal level and the control level: Workstations for picture generation, evaluation, or processing contain control functions (conventional mini/micro-computers) and picture processing functions (e.g. specialized hardware modules). They communicate with the central optical disc picture base via standard channels on the control level, and via high-speed channels on the picture data level. The management level is, in contrast, centralized. Any existing data base system may be used to manage, by means of minor extensions, the physically separated picture base, and thus to link pictures to non-pictorial information.