Architecture – the art and science of designing and erecting buildings – affects our lives more than any other type of art. Many of the architectural elements that we find in our cities today come from building traditions that are over 1,000 years old. The task of printing a structure that includes one or more architectural elements can awaken children’s interest in architecture, history and mythology.
Orvieto, Italy, photo courtesy of Diane Harr
Line print by Kevin, age 7
Creating a building with architectural elements encourages the development and practice of:
observing and recognizing important architectural structures from different times and places.
awareness of the built environment
identifying and creating architectural elements
planning, placement, printing, construction and design skills.
post & beam
column – Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
Large line tool to begin
Small straight line tools to add when needed
Large and small curved line tools to add when needed
12” X 18” (30 X 46 cm) or larger paper – for practicing
12” X 18” (30 X 46 cm) or 18 X 24” larger paper for final print
One color tempera paint in squeeze bottle
Trays of paint to share
Practice paper and large straight line tool at each place
Other line tools in reserve to hand out when needed
Trays (in reserve) to hand out once children have practiced
An Abbreviated History of Architecture
Spark interest in architecture by sharing an abbreviated history. We are fortunate that so many examples from the ancient world are still standing today. We can also see and learn more about them on the internet!
Post & Beam
Stonehenge was built in England about 4,000 years ago. These enormous stones are one of the earliest examples that remain of post and beam construction.
Why and how Stonehenge was built is still a mystery. Many experts believe that it was built to worship the sun god. Others believe that it was part of a huge astronomical calendar.
The early Egyptians rounded the posts to create columns.
The ancient Greeks refined the column and, over time, created three distinct new styles: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
Doric: The simplest and heaviest of the columns.
Photo by Tobias K. Davis
Ionic: A much more graceful column. The capital (top of the column) is made up of two spirals called volutes.
Corinthian: The fanciest. Its capital is made up of small curling forms. The Greeks didn’t like this style very much, but the Romans did and used it in many buildings.
Greek Refinements: Entablature and Pediment
Built 2,500 years ago on a hilltop in Athens, Greece, the Parthenon could be seen from all over the city. It was built to worship the goddess Athena and to hold the treasures of the city.
The ancient Greeks refined and lengthened the early post and beam construction. The posts became graceful columns. The beam became a rectangle (entablature) filled with carvings and designs. The construction was able to support a triangular pediment, which in turn supported a roof.
The Romans copied many Greek designs and added to them. Important additions were the rounded arch and the use of concrete, which opened up space and supported bigger and taller structures.
The Pont du Gard, in Nimes, France, was built by the Romans to carry water from high ground, across distances, to city reservoirs.
Because of the strength of the arch it was possible to span wide distances. For the first time in history bridges and aqueducts (to bring water to important Italian cities) were built.
The invention of the arch led to the creation of the dome and the vaulted ceiling. These self-supporting structures opened up graceful overhead spaces more than ever before.
Dome of the Rock, 688 CE (Jerusalem)
Due to their ability to raise and open spaces without the need for central supporting pillars, domes and vaulted ceilings are used in religious buildings world-wide to inspire awe and spirituality. Each culture has changed and added to these basic forms.
The Taj Mahal in India was built in 1684 by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife. Notice the shape of the dome.
Watch a Teacher give an introduction to the history of Architecture
Watch a teacher motivate and demonstrate designing and printing a building with two architectural elements.
With the addition of curved line tools, domes and arches are easy to add.
Hold the half circle on its edge
Place carefully so as not to smear
Think about a building that is important to a city or community.
Practice constructing the building using the large, straight line tool
Print on practice paper
Check to see that you have used two architectural elements – post & beam, column, pediment, entablature, arch, dome *(Hannah, the elements could go in this line, or in a row – see below.)
Post and beam
Create final print
*Post pictures of interesting and historical architecture help to inspire ideas.
This illustration from School Arts Magazine is a helpful demonstration of how to think about printing a beginning structure with the large straight line tool, then using other tools to add rooftops and windows, and finally using smaller tools to add details.
In these three illustrations, the artist Ande Cook shows us the strategy she used to draw the Taj Mahal. Handout, “Islamic Architecture,” School Arts Magazine, Dec. 1994
Watch a video of first-graders at work on their buildings:
Here is the painted print of the Parthenon from the video.
Paint your building.
The teacher holds up children’s work from the previous week before she sends children off to begin painting.
Willy (age 7) explains his printed structure to the rest of the class, “I tried to make the Parthenon and here are some of the columns.”
*If time is short, you might be able to eliminate the step of working first on practice paper. But, be sure to allow additional time to practice with line tools before handing out trays with paint.
Emphasize finding new ways to use unintended lines or “mistakes” if they occur.
*Keep found objects in reserve until building structures are well-developed.
Offer these smaller shapes as a way to add details and embellishments.
Share & Reflect
Learning about the above iconic structures always seems to inspire a few students to want to recreate them. In the end, the printed structure may not resemble the original structure – and that does not matter! What matters is that the beauty and history of these iconic structures gave students a concrete place to begin creating their own buildings.
Many children enjoy taking on the challenge of trying to recreate the Taj Mahal with printed lines and shape.
“I’m doing the Taj Mahal and it inspired me. It has really nice designs.” ~ Austin, age 7
Gina, age 7
Children often pick up on unique details. The draped female figures, or caryatids, that form the columns of this portico in Ancient Greece intrigued Mia (age 7) to create the entrance to her temple.
Portico of the Erechtheion (420-393 BCE), a temple which lies to the North of the Parthenon. This temple contained the olive tree that Athena called forth during her contest with Poseidon, along with other treasures.
When exploring the theme of architecture, children also draw from stories, movies and their imaginations. They incorporate their interests and ideas in inventive ways.
“This is Cinderella’s castle. It’s just because I really like Cinderella so much. It’s really the best picture I’ve really done in two years and I’m really proud of it. It’s really the best house I’ve ever done.” ~ Olivia, age 7
“This is Hogwarts, but I don’t think it really looks like it.” ~ Faith, age 7
“I did a barn because I really like animals and I have chickens. I really like the shapes and colors.” ~ Devon, age 7
“This is Cooley Dickinson Hospital where I was born. The crosses gave me the idea.” ~ Nolan, age 7
A church by Tory, age 8
Variations & Extensions
Alternative Ideas: Monuments and Parks
When Jonah (age 7) asked if he could paint the Eiffel Tower, his request sparked other children to try printing some of the monuments that they had seen.
The Eiffel Tower by Jonah, age 7
The Lincoln Memorial by Daniel, age 7
The Statue of Liberty by Arcadia, age 7
“I like baseball and I really like watching it on TV. I really like the Red Sox … that’s what gave me the idea.” ~ David, age 7
A Skateboard Park by Alexander, age 7
Sequoia, age 7, discusses the wildlife sanctuary that he portrayed in his print.
An Architectural Treasure Hunt
An architectural treasure hunt is a great way to revisit the architectural elements to see how they have been used and modified in one’s own community. Be sure to scout out the streets to be explored before bringing a group of students. Or, give this assignment as homework. You might design a handout based on buildings that your students will see.
Draw some of the geometric shapes you see.
Draw a few interesting window shapes.
Draw a few different rooftops.
Can you find any of the historical architectural elements that we looked at – columns, entablature, pediment, arch, dome, etc.?
Draw a favorite building from observation.
Using the line tools is a great way to practice representing three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Look at a section of any room. Hold up your large straight line tool and practice positioning it to create the structure of the room. Match the direction or angle of your tool to the element or feature that you are trying to create before actually printing. It takes a few minutes to get the idea.
Practice placing lines and printing with no ink. Once you feel comfortable, go ahead and print.