Monday, February 10

Architecture Unit Study

Aren't old houses fascinating?  The beauty and aesthetic of design meeting function...when you couple it with the historic context of the era when it was built, it becomes even more so...

Ever since that first Lego Duplo set, our son has been building and designing.  He has amazing spatial skills (as evidenced by these etch-a-sketch drawings!) and this is his student-led study on architecture, appropriate for middle and high school students.  Never fear, mom, I've remembered to address the littles, too!  Resources just for them are listed at the bottom.

Let's begin with a review of the basic architectural column designs.

Of the three columns found in Greece, 
Doric columns are the simplest. They have a capital (the top, or crown) made of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has 20 sides. There is no base in the Doric order. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design. Doric, like most Greek styles, works well horizontally on buildings, that's why it was so good with the long rectangular buildings made by the Greeks. The area above the column, called the frieze [pronounced "freeze"], had simple patterns. 

Ionic shafts were taller than Doric ones. 
This makes the columns look slender. They also had flutes, which are lines carved into them from top to bottom. The shafts also had a special characteristic: entasis, which is a little bulge in the columns make the columns look straight, even at a distance [because since you would see the building from eye level, the shafts would appear to get narrower as they rise, so this bulge makes up for that - so it looks straight to your eye but it really isn't !] . The frieze is plain. The bases were large and looked like a set of stacked rings. Ionic capitals consist of a scrolls above the shaft. The Ionic style is a little more decorative than the Doric.

The Corinthian order is the most decorative and is usually the one most modern people like best. Corinthian also uses entasis to make the shafts look straight. The Corinthian capitals have flowers and leaves below a small scroll. The shaft has flutes and the base is like the Ionian. Unlike the Doric and Ionian cornices, which are at a slant, the Corinthian roofs are flat.
Part of the fun of architecture is getting to express your unique individuality!!  Below are some fun activities for your students to explore their styles and do just that!
  • What Is Your Architecture Personality?
    • This quiz determines your architecture personality.   At the end of the quiz it tells you about the different styles of architecture.    This is definitely geared more towards adults than students, but the boys loved taking the tests lots of different ways to see what types of styles they could produce.
  • American House : Styles of Architecture Coloring Book
    • Crisp renderings of over 40 extant structures from Taos Pueblo to striking contemporaries. Spanish Colonial, Georgian, Stick, Gothic, many other styles. Rich and informative captions date, identify, and describe each dwelling.
  • How to Become an Architect
    • This page answers some of the most frequently asked questions about careers in architecture. The advice comes from several architects.
You can't learn about architecture without getting hands-on!  Here are some of the best kits and activities that we have stumbled upon so far.
  • Lego Architecture : Eiffel Tower
    • Lego has an entire line of architectural designs, ranging from $30 to $180.  The Eiffel Tower is on the lower range, and we spent a whole day studying France while building this one!!  (Double the learning, double the fun!)
  • Lego Architect Studio
    • This one is the mack-daddy of architectural sets from Lego...including a 300 page booklet and more bricks than any one child should own!
  • Young Architect Kit
    • Create a 3-dimensional design model in just 3 easy steps! Great for aspiring young architects, design and furnish your floor plan with templates and colored pencils that are included. To top it off, this building set is reusable, so you can start from scratch and redesign your floor plans over and over again for endless fun.
Finally, David Macaulay's Building Big series at PBS offers students a chance to work with engineering concepts on an interactive site.  This site is the accompaniment to his DVD series, which was fascinating for our entire family.  Ranging from age 6 to Dad, we all enjoyed watching these videos together.
Early Elementary Resources
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