Archives for the month of: May, 2011

A Review: Creativity captured in a Children’s Book

Book Cover: The Three Little Pigs - An Architectural Tale

Have you ever wondered: if the three little pigs had professions, what they would be?

Well, if they had professions, according to this phenomenal tale retold by Steven Guarnaccia, they would probably be architects.

Without revealing too much of the amazing imagination in this book, and exploiting every architectural one-liner known to humankind, I would like to mention:

Have you ever pictured Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright as positively plump pink piggies?

If you hadn’t before, after exploring this revamped tale, it will be hard not to always think of curly-cue tails attached to the rumps of these 3 Starchitects.

The cleverness of the story is the synthesis of the whimsical classic tale and the reality of the strengths of different building materials.

Frank Gehry #1- known for a mixed-use of materials forming sculptural buildings.
Phillip Johnson #2- known for his Modernist glass house.
And Frank Lloyd Wright #3- known for massive, heavy materials casting buildings into the landscape.

Little Pig #1- straw
Little Pig #2- sticks
Little Pig #3- bricks

Draw any conclusions now?


I have started establishing my children’s book collection and I would love any recommendations of any design focused children’s books!

WEEK 4: Let’s go look at some structure!

Finally! A FIELD TRIP! Yay! We were lucky enough to be within a 5 minute walk to the most beautiful active barn. The purpose of the field trip was to actually SEE how buildings stand up. We found lots of triangles, squares, and even some cows. Although the calf in the middle of the barn was the most exciting, the students observed how the barn stands up.

After drying ourselves off from the downpour we walked through to get back to the classroom, we then talked about how to measure as a form of observation. We paced the classroom, measured our paces, measured our limbs as measuring tools. Brett and I brought in a bag full of measuring and drawing tools to show and pass around the class. These concepts began our learning of the sense of scale which we will use for our final project.

 Part A

Activity 1: Barn Field Trip

Part B

Activity 2: Measuring Tools

-How to estimate the size of buildings, rooms, and spaces: pacing, body parts as measuring tools, and floor plans.

WEEK 3: Observe, observe, observe.

The goal of the day’s activities was a lesson in observation. Observation is the greatest tool that humans have in determining their surroundings, creating new ways to think about their surroundings, and most importantly just seeing.

Brett and I thought it was important to spend more than one class period working with the students on all the different ways to observe and document things we see.  We spent the first half of the class making view-finders and telescopes. We used these tools to scope out things in the classroom.

It was fantastic seeing the students noticing things they had never noticed before in a place that they visit everyday, their classroom.

The second half of the day we looked at each other. We noticed how far away our eyes were from our ears, eyes from noses, noses from mouths, mouths from chins. “Our eyes are all different shapes.”

 Great lesson for every human being: observe, observe, observe. 

Part A

Activity 1: Observe and Draw your neighbor.

-Create View Finders + Telescopes

-Draw what you see.

Part B

Activity 2: Let’s Face It-The Eyes are in the Middle

-A Lesson in Proportions

-Tools to use to observe and record what you have observed.

WEEK 2: What makes a building stand up? What makes up a city?

Our second visit to Verboort near Forest Grove was another success. Today our goal was to dig deeper and wider: building more shapes in two dimensions and three dimensions and think about what makes up a city.

We spent the first half of the class creating lots of different shapes: cylinders, pyramids, rectangles, cubes, and cones.

The excitement of the day was demonstrating how strong three dimensional shapes really are by balancing more than 15 textbooks on a cylinder made out of construction paper. Wow!

With piles and piles of construction paper shapes to work with, the students divided up into 6 groups and designed cities. One even found it important to include the Great Wall of China.

This day was fun because it developed a wonderful conversation about what children think is important in cities. The awareness of sustainability in cities was remarkable. All of the groups wanted to make sure that public transportation was available. And of course, the tallest and most exciting buildings to them: skyscrapers.

 Part A

Activity 1: What makes Structures Stand Up: Simple shapes make up buildings. Geometry in architecture. Two-dimension to Three-Dimension.

Part B

Activity 2: What will cities look like 25 years from now?

What are the different parts of a city? How do you move around cities? What do you wish cities had? What do you need in your city?

The Architects in Schools program consisted of a 6-week architectural study. We chose to focus on geometry as an avenue to connect architecture and the curriculum in the 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. For both groups, this was an applied review: testing their knowledge of general shapes and applying it to things like how strong are shapes.

WEEK 1: What is Architecture? What is Structure?

This preliminary week is meant as an introduction. What better place to start thinking about architecture than to start thinking about what really makes buildings stand up. An incredible activity that was demonstrated at orientation really brings together what the Architects in Schools experience should be, and that’s “How it feels to be a Structure.” Brett (my co-architect/teacher), Deann (the third grade teacher), Beth (the fourth grade teacher), and myself decided to have this activity be our first.

The activity went really well. It’s a great opportunity to learn while being active. It’s amazing how the activity actually allows you to feel what a structure feels like. Every architect should do this activity as a reminder of what really makes things stand up.

After this active activity we moved into a desktop activity demonstrated the strength of repeating shapes, especially triangles. Who would have thought that a bunch of triangles could actually make up a dome? And yes, the students wore them on their heads.

 Part A

Activity 1: How it feels to be a Structure: “Be a…POST! Be a… BEAM! Be a…LINTEL! Be an… ARCADE! Be a…flying buttress!”

Part B

Activity 2: Toothpick Dome- Triangles are Strong.

Last Thursday marked the beginning of the exhibition for the Architects in School program in Portland, OR of which I was a participant.

Was I the architect? Or was I the student?

The answer is both, always both.

The exhibit was the conclusion of extensive collaboration between professionals, classroom teachers, and students (grades 3 through 5). My team consisted of two architecture graduate students, two established elementary school teachers, and 29 third and fourth grade students. We met every other week in Forest Grove, OR in a classroom portable just past the Urban Growth Boundary: farmland, cows, and nurseries.

In the following posts, I will be recapping the wonderful experience starting with “linked-arm arcades” through our community on the Moon.