Monday, March 18, 2024

History of Architecture Ceramic Totem Pole

I'm always trying to balance my art assignments between personal and collaborative projects. There's such a wide range of abilities within a group of students: a range of vision, a range of cognitive levels. It's nice, in group projects, for everyone to have a chance to do as much as they can, to contribute to something better than any one of them could do by themselves. 

This is the third totem pole that we've made for the sensory garden on our school campus, and we may continue to make one every other year as long as interest prevails. I don't know. For the history of architecture totem pole, we started by brainstorming to come up with a list of famous buildings, most of which were chosen from student writing assignments. We talked a lot about which ideas made the most sense in terms of representing a range history? Which contemporary buildings are represent modernity and are recognizable symbols? Do we need to use both the Parthenon and the Pantheon? If we're going to do one, which should it be?

There were many problems to be solved. How do you stack pointy buildings? What should go on top? The pyramid of Giza? The Eiffel Tower? The Empire State Building? How do you use the ones that are not on top to help build a solid structure?  How do you create a long skinny Great Wall of China in a way that will wrap around a pole? How do you create a straight tower that incorporates the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Art isn't just about going from point A to point B. Want a picture of a dog? Just draw a dog! It's not usually that simple. We seek to find the best possible solutions in a world of infinite possibilities.
And then there was the engineering? We didn't want all the skinny buildings on top on the bottom, but how do we arrange varied sizes and shapes in a way that is structurally sound? It turned out that the Taj Mahal sat more solidly on top of a thin pole with a bas relief of both Notre Dam cathedral and the Empire State Building than it did on top of the larger Parthenon sculpture. I hope my students could see the importance of playing around with, not only ideas, but of physical forms. Everyone pray that all of our buildings survive the kiln.


Clay House Assignments

I love that architecture can be an umbrella to teach 3D techniques and 2D techniques, such as drawing. For the clay house assignment, students were focused on learning to rolling slabs and using scoring and slipping techniques, but they had a lot of leeway for their own concept development: craftsmanship and originality.

Each student took their freedom seriously and came up with an idea they could get excited about. 

We talked about the concept of a house: a tree house, a light house, a gingerbread house, a fairy house, etc. Students paid attention to form an color to communicate their idea, while adding doors and windows to something like a mushroom or beehive to make it a house where a human could live. For students who were totally blind, I used painters tape to stop out all of the parts of their sculpture they didn't want to be a specific color, so they could work as independently as possible.

Personal Cyanotype Assignment

 In education, we learn about scaffolding and the gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student: I do, we do, you do. So our large cyanotype murals that we did together came the personal cyanotype project. Each student had a 8 1/2 X 11 piece of treated fabric and was able to use negatives, blue prints, plants, stencils, doilies, and their own drawings on clear plastic. 

Once students arranged their composition on board in a dark (mostly dark) classroom, they moved everything to another board with treated fabric on it. Plexiglass was placed on top to hold everything together on a breezy spring afternoon. After sitting in the sun for 15 minutes the fabric was quickly brought back in and rinsed in a bath of cool water.

We used the shape of a house to frame most of the images in order to keep with the theme of buildings/ homes.