Building Awareness. (Architecture in the Art Room)

Article excerpt

Probably every child recognizes a Coca-Cola[R] or an M&M's[R] logo. A logo identifies a product. A similar symbol is a building for which a city or country is known. For instance, the Statue of Liberty symbolizes the United States, and the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris, and of France. They are like logos.

When people know the great buildings of the world, they also learn where they are and, in turn, build knowledge of buildings. Pairing buildings up with countries can help students become aware of architecture, its function, how it reflects a country, its styles, and the times in which it was built.

What are some of the world's greatest buildings? There's Stonehenge in England; The Parthenon and The Citadel of Mycenae in Greece; The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; The Great Wall of China; The Royal Crescent in Bath, England; The Eiffel Tower, The Pompidou Center and The Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris; and The Sydney Opera House in Australia. These buildings represent their countries, different uses and different times. They are like logos.

A building represents more than a place where people live, work or worship. It can be any type of structure that demands architecture and engineering. From a simple mud hut to the great palaces of the world, someone had to plan their construction and function. The great buildings of the world are masterpieces in that they advanced the use of themes, materials and techniques, and each captured the spirit of its time and place.

The simple structure of the Egyptian pyramids has a timeless serenity. The Potala Palace overlooking the city of Lhasa, is Tibet's most important building. When it is was constructed between 1645 and 1693, its wood, earthen and stone palace walls were fortified against earthquakes by pouring molten copper into some of the cavities.

The Royal Crescent and the city of Bath, England, revolutionized the concept of town planning in 1767. The Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, exhibits the plasticity inherent in concrete to create a sculptural building. In 1998, Frank O. Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, used steel, stone and glass for the structure, then wrapped the design in titanium.

Architectural awareness erases a person's complacency about buildings. It increases one's enjoyment of their surroundings and introduces them to structures of different countries and the cultures they represent. What else does building awareness teach? It tells about the styles of the times, a building's function, its use of interior spaces, its embellishments and its setting.

Several of the world's masterpiece buildings are pictured here. With a little research using the suggested resources, you and your students can quickly build a library of images and information. Have students gather photos and information from art, architecture and travel sections of magazines and newspapers; travel brochures and books; art books and encyclopedias. The Internet is another resource for finding information on the buildings and their countries.

In many structures, the reason for being and the historical background are as interesting as the appearance of the final structure. The Taj Majal (Crown Palace), near Agra, India, for example, was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, as a mausoleum for his favorite wife who died after the birth of their 14th child.

Built between 1631 and 1653, the pure white marble structure is as high as a modern 20-story building, yet so superbly proportioned that it appears delicate, almost dreamlike, with its image reflected in the pool of the formal gardens. Its jewel-embedded surface helps reflect atmospheric nuances throughout the day and seasons.

FORTRESSES Archaeologists are still arguing about the function of Machu Picchu, an incredible grouping of buildings first discovered in 1912 in Peru. Was it a fortress, a city, a palace or an important ceremonial site? …