One Plan for Teaching and Learning About Architecture

Six Weeks of Lessons for Grades 6 - 12 +

Math, science, art, writing, research, history, and project management are all subjects intrinsic to the study of architecture. Use the following content outline as an instructional guide, to be modified for most any age group and any discipline.

Note: Unit learning objectives are listed at the end.

01
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Week 1 - Engineering

A bridge worker walks up a cable of the newly constructed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on July 12, 2013 in Oakland, California
Constructing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in California, 2013. Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Begin the study of architecture with practical science and math activities. Use a deck of cards to build primitive structures. What keeps them standing? What forces make them fall? Use a bird cage to demonstrate the building of more complicated structures like skyscrapers—metal frames with stuck-on walls. Focus on these key learning points during the first week:

More Sources:

02
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Week 2 - What is architecture?

Selfridges Department store in Birmingham, England designed by Czechoslovakia-born Jan Kaplický's firm, Future Systems, is often considered Blob Architecture.
Selfridges Department store in Birmingham, England designed by Czechoslovakia-born Jan Kaplický's firm, Future Systems, is often considered Blob Architecture. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Why do buildings look the way they do? The second week of study builds on lessons learned from Week 1. Buildings look the way they do because of technology, engineering, materials, and the architect's design vision. Focus on these architectural models:

03
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Week 3 - Who does architecture?

MacArhutr Foundation Fellow Jeanne Gang in front of her skyscraper, Aqua Tower, in Chicago
MacArhutr Foundation Fellow Jeanne Gang in front of her skyscraper, Aqua Tower, in Chicago. Photo courtesy of owner John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) (cropped)

The third week moves from "what is" to "who does." Transition from structures to the people who make them. Be inclusive to all aspects of an architectural project and related career opportunities.

04
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Week 4 - Neighborhoods and Cities

Photograph of a model park created by an elementary school landscape architect.
Student-Designed Landscape Model. Student-Designed Landscape Model photo by Joel Veak, courtesy NPS, Fred. Law Olmsted Nat Hist Site

Broaden the scope of study during week four. Break away from individual buildings and their makers to communities and neighborhood living. Broaden the notion of design to include landscape architecture. Possible ideas include:

05
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Week 5 - Living and Working on the Earth

Illustration model of green roof layers, grass at top layer
Scheme of a flat roof structure with grass. Artist: Dieter Spannknebel / Collection: Stockbyte / Getty Images

As students work on unit projects, continue talking about environmental and social issues related to architecture. Focus on these big ideas:

06
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Week 6 - The Project: Doing the Work

Student Yinery Baez explains a touch screen control panel inside the team's solar house.
Student team member Yinery Baez explains a touch screen control panel inside a solar house. Student Yinery Baez ©2011 Stefano Paltera / U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The last week of the unit ties up loose ends and allows students to "Show and Tell" their unit projects. Presentation could simply be to upload renderings to a free website. Emphasize project management and the steps taken to complete any project, whether architecture or homework.

07
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Learning Objectives

At the end of this six weeks a student will be able to:

  1. Explain and give examples of engineering's relationship to building structures
  2. Recognize five famous architectural structures
  3. Name five architects, living or dead
  4. Give three examples for designing and building structures that are suited for their environment
  5. Discuss three issues every architect faces in doing the job of architecture
  6. Show how computers can be used in modern architecture