Building Detectives

Through Building Detectives, students explore the basic elements of buildings and how these parts contribute to the larger structure.  What is the job of a cornice? Why are stoops so special? In the first session, students learn about these building elements and then draw their own imagined buildings.  In the second session, students go outside to identify parts and sketch building facades.  Finally, using both their background knowledge and first-hand experience, students create a three-dimensional brownstone façade, which combine to create a streetscape model.

  • Students will gain knowledge of architectural vocabulary, including various building parts and their functions.
  • Students will be able to identify these parts on actual buildings.
  • Using their knowledge of building parts and ornament, students will create a brownstone façade with a cohesive design.
  • Students will display understanding of the importance of architecture and its preservation.
Session 1: Facades

Today we look at one special kind of building we find in our neighborhood: the brownstone (also known as a ‘row house’). We discuss as a group what we already know about brownstones – how old are they? why are they called brownstones? how tall are they? what are they made of? why are they special? Through a group drawing exercise we then learn about the parts of the brownstone ‘facade’, labeling the key architectural features as we go, and learning new architectural vocabulary. The session finishes with students completing their own brownstone drawings, replete with correct labeling! 

Session 2: Outdoor sketching of facades

Through a close observation of the buildings near their school, and using their background knowledge from session one, students will identify and sketch both individual building parts and an entire façade of a brownstone or apartment building.

Session 3: Building brownstone facades

Today we construct and design our own brownstone building facades! Drawing on their own knowledge and experience with building parts, each student creates a brownstone/apartment building with cardstock, building part cut outs, and decorates with black pen (NB. we supply all materials!). This project makes an excellent classroom display and can be extended upon through a writing project.

More Workshops

To inquire about having your school partner with Keeping the Past for the Future, please contact

Shannon Hill
45 West 67th Street
New York, NY 10023

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