Introduction to Architectural Concepts
- Grade level: Middle School, High School
- Subject Area: Social Studies
Students begin to familiarize themselves with some of the general concepts of architecture.
- Use the Internet and library resources provided to develop a rudimentary understanding of architectural concepts.
- Develop a rudimentary understanding of the practical concerns facing the architect.
- Read about architects and architectural structures of note.
Materials & Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: None.
- Special software requirements: None.
- Internet access: High-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
- Read some passages of The Fountainhead (see Library Resources below) by Ayn Rand (see Internet Resources below) and some quotes from Frank Lloyd Wright and R. Buckminster Fuller (see Internet Resources below) aloud with the class to help them develop a context for studying architecture. Some appropriate passages of The Fountainhead are suggested. It might be useful to select a few quotes from Wright and Fuller as well.
- Have the class speculate as a group about some of the practical issues architects must consider in their work (materials, purpose of the structure, climate in which the structure will stand).
- Allow students a fair amount of time to pair off or group themselves to peruse the Internet and Library Resources below on basic architectural concepts and exemplary structures.
- Reconvene to discuss students' perceptions of what architecture "is." This is obviously a very complex topic.
- Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
This is a site that explains Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.
- Frank Lloyd Wright Quotes
This site provides quotes from Wright on a variety of subjects, including architecture and government.
- Frank Lloyd Wright Quotations
This site also contains a variety of quotes from Wright.
- The Frank Lloyd Wright Page
This site is a clearinghouse of biographical, visual, and work-related information about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Broadacre All-Wright Site
This site provides a biography of Wright and links to some of his buildings, among other resources.
- Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud
This is a PBS site with information on Fuller, including descriptions and pictures of his inventions, such as the geodesic dome; an essay contest; artifacts from his life; information about his philosophy of life; movies; and a discussion forum.
- Bucky Fuller
This is a biographical site with reprints of some of Fuller's works and a discussion of his philosophy of synergy, a concept that he applied first to the geodesic dome and then to other spheres of human influence (e.g., economics).
- Architecture Home Page
Site containing various architecture resources, including journals, e-mail discussion lists, on-line exhibits, and library materials.
- Structural Typologies
University of Oregon site describing some structural components of contemporary buildings and other structures.
- The Architectonic Studio Case Study Collection
This site provides descriptions of actual architectural structures. The vocabulary is rather technical at times, but the information is useful because the descriptions include building materials, location of the structure, and reasons that the structure was built.
- Rand, A. (1943) The Fountainhead. New York: Penguin Books, Inc.
The Fountainhead is a novel by Ayn Rand that uses architecture and characters who are architects to celebrate the abilities of people to strive for greatness using the materials they find around them. The attempt to conceptualize and create the perfect building reflects the human attempt to strive for greatness. Passages from The Fountainhead may help to focus a discussion about the purposes of architecture and how these relate to the human condition. Following are some suggested passages, with page numbers corresponding to the edition noted above.
page 23 "You must learn to understand--and it has been proved by all authorities--that everything beautiful in architecture has been done already. There is a treasure mine in every style of the past. We can only choose from the great masters. Who are we to improve upon them? We can only attempt, respectfully, to repeat."
page 24 "No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn't borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn't borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it."
page 27 "Architecture, my friends, is a great Art based on two cosmic principles: Beauty and Utility. In a broader sense, these are but part of the three eternal entities: Truth, Love, and Beauty. Truth--to the traditions of our Art, Love--for our fellow men whom we are to serve, Beauty--ah, Beauty is a compelling goddess to all artists, be it in the shape of a lovely woman or a building...In conclusion, I should like to say to you, who are about to embark upon your careers in architecture, that you are now the custodians of a sacred heritage...So, go forth into the world...armed with courage and vision, loyal to the standards this great school has represented for many years. May you all serve faithfully, neither as slaves to the past nor as those parvenus who preach originality for its own sake, which attitude is only ignorant vanity. May you all have many rich, active years before you and leave, as you depart from this world, your mark on the sands of time!"
page 34 "I want to practice architecture...not talk about it!"
page 81 "He had forgotten his first building, and the fear and doubt of its birth. He had learned that it was so simple. His clients would accept anything, so long as he gave them an imposing facade, a majestic entrance and a regal drawing room, with which to astound their guests. Keating did not care so long as his clients were impressed, the clients did not care so long as their guests were impressed, and the guests did not care anyway."
- Other relevant books on architecture or architects, such as the following:
Conway, H. and Roenisch, R. (1994). Understanding architecture: An introduction to architecture and architectural history. London: Routledge.
Brief history of architecture, with the attitude that the past helps us understand the present.
Thomsen, C. W. (1994). Visionary architecture: From Babylon to virtual reality. Munich: Restel-Verlag.
Fascinating book chronicling the history of architecture and outlining the world of computer-augmented architecture. Contains fabulous pictures and diagrams.
Winters, N. B. (1986). Architecture is elementary: Visual thinking through architectural concepts. Salt Lake City, UT: Peregrine Smith Books.
Provides a range of lessons from the very simple (eg: shapes and sizes of objects used in architecture) to the very complex (eg: city planning). Helps students begin to appreciate the value of architecture by helping them exercise their visual literacy skills.
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