Magazine article School Arts

Slab Houses: Reflections of the Past

Magazine article School Arts

Slab Houses: Reflections of the Past

Article excerpt

Architecture is a visual form that surrounds us. Although we are exposed daily to it, much of the richness, details and variety of its forms remains unnoticed or unappreciated. Intrigued by the beauty and mystery of the Victorian architecture in our area, I started planning a unit on this unique building style.

While taking slides of the different "painted ladies" in our community, I began noting the bay windows that are identified with Victorian houses. These windows are meant to allow sunlight into the dark interiors and to reflect the outside environment. In an attempt to explore and educate my students about this aspect of Victorian architecture, I devised a ceramic sculpture project that would incorporate art history, handbuilding and surface ornamentation.

Students began their ceramic unit with a slide-lecture of buildings and features that are representative of architectural styles from the Victorian era. The discussion also included the reflective nature of the house windows and how students could incorporate that feeling in their work. One student suggested that we glue fragments of a mirror to the back of the windows on each Victorian house. This solution proved effective.

The production process is very flexible and adaptable for use with a variety of age groups from grade school through high school. After refining sketches, students cut a template from oaktag in the desired architectural shape. A 1/2" slab is rolled out using rolling pins and rulers. The "house" template is placed on the clay and the piece cut out with a needle tool or knife. …

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