Put Your Best Façade Forward-Lesson 2

By Marianne Aalbue, October 1, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

One or two forty-five minute class periods


Architecture plays a major role in our lives. We live in and work in buildings. We are connected to these buildings, yet these buildings often do not speak of any connection to us. In lesson two, students will analyze the design of their school’s façade for messages about what happens in the building and for messages about the people who use the building. Students will then redesign the façade of their school.

National Standards


Students will be able to:
  • analyze the façade of their school for messages about the school
  • understand what a concept sketch is
  • redesign the façade of their school in such a way that the new design will send a message about their school



  • photograph of the façade of the students’ school
  • students’ observational drawings of their school’s facade
  • photograph of the Erechtheion temple porch with caryatids
  • photograph of the WPA mural Pursuit of Happiness by Vertis Hayes
  • rulers
  • drawing pencils
  • erasers
  • 12” x 18” white drawing paper
  • students’ art journals
  • vocabulary chart


Façade–the face or front of a building
Analyze–to examine something in great detail to understand it better
Concept sketch–a sketch of a design idea
Mural–a very large picture painted on an inside or outside wall of a building


  • Pencils, drawing paper, rulers, and erasers are out on the tables.
  • (recap of what was learned in part 1 of this unit) As a class, we learned that architecture is one of the applied arts. Applied art is art that is concerned with the design and creation of functional objects. Functional objects are things that we use. As a class, we learned that a building is one example of architecture. We also learned that the façade of a building is the front of a building and its design is important because the façade is the first part of the building that people see, therefore sending a message about what happens inside the building, and about the people in the community who use the building.
  • In the last class period, you created an observational drawing of the façade of our school. Here is a picture of the front of our school. (Teacher displays a photograph of the school’s façade.) Study the photograph and your sketches.
  • We are going to analyze the façade design and look at it closely to understand it better. Pretend you are a total stranger looking at the façade of our school for the first time.
Topic Question
  • What message does the design of the façade send to you? What do you see in the façade that makes you feel that way? Write your answers in your journals and include evidence to backup your statement. Remember, your answer is only based on what you actually see in the façade, not on what you already know about our school. Have students share answers. (Example: The message is that our school is boring.)
  • What do you see that makes you say that? (Examples: The colors are dull; the design makes me think that people are locked inside, due to the bars and grates on the windows, etc.)
  • Now look at your “Things I like about my school” web in your art journals (created in lesson 1).
  • Does the design of the façade send messages about any of the things you like about your school? Raise your hand if you think people should know more about the wonderful students that go to this school and the great things that happen in this building.
  • Today we will begin redesigning the façade of our school. The new design will send the types of messages we want to send about our school. Visualization
  • Let’s look at some of the different parts of the façade so that we can discover areas that we might like to redesign. Lead the students in a discussion about the exterior of the school. Example: Does it have columns? How would you describe them? Can anyone think of a way to change the design of the columns? Is their anything we use in school that is tall and thin? (Example: We could design the columns to look like pencils, pens, paintbrushes, etc.) Could you combine more then one thing to make a column, like piling one thing on top of another? Encourage the class to brainstorm different items they use in classrooms, in the gym, etc. (Example: We could combine basketballs, soccer balls, sneakers, etc.)
  • Here is a picture of some very interesting columns from an ancient temple in Greece called the Erechtheion. (Show pictures of the Erechtheion)
  • You could design your columns to look like people, in a similar way that these columns look like people. Lead students to brainstorm which people they could model the columns after (Example: We could use students, teachers, parents, the security guard, the people who work in the cafeteria, etc.)
  • We could also design a mural. A mural is a very large picture painted directly on an inside or an outside wall of a building. Here is a picture of a mural called Pursuit of Happiness by Vertis Hayes that is painted on a wall inside Harlem Hospital in New York. (Show students the picture.) Where could we put a mural on the front of our school? (Example: We could put a mural between the windows.)
  • What are some of your ideas? What will your mural be about? (My mural will be about sports, the library and our librarian reading to us, etc.)
  • It’s time to start working on sketches for your design ideas. You may need to create more than one sketch before you are happy with your design. These sketches are called concept sketches—sketches of ideas—and they are just one type of sketch that an architect uses in the design process. Please refer to the web in your notebook for ideas.
  • We have talked about messages that the façade of our school sends. Who can tell me what some of those messages are?
  • You worked on concept sketches of façade designs to send a new message about the school. Have students describe the messages that they are trying to send.
  • Have students share their designs with the class. Ask students what the designer of the façade wants you to know about the school, and how they can tell.
  • Have the designer read his or her description of their message, after their sketch has been critiqued by the class.


The students will have successfully learned the objectives of this lesson if:
  • they identify the messages sent by their school’s façade and they are able to use evidence to backup their observations
  • they are able to create a concept sketch of their design ideas
  • the written description of their façade design correlates with and is evident in the concept sketch
Differentiation The teacher will review English Language Learners and learning disabled students’ “Things I like about my school” webs. The teacher can then do an image search, which will provide pictures that will illustrate the students’ webs. These pictures will make it easier for the students to translate words into drawings.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Math Connection
  • Students will use math in order to draw their concept drawing to scale.
Social Studies Connection
  • Students will study the history connected to the WPA Murals and the Erechtheion Temple Porch of Maidens.

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