Architecture Through the Ages

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Introduction
Annotated Bibliography
Pathfinder

 

Architecture Through the Ages: Architecture Sites for Kids and Their Families
Created by Nansun Liang | October 17, 2002

Introduction

We all live in, work in, or walk around buildings and experience architecture on a daily basis. The design decisions taken by architects in the near or distant past affect us more directly than any other comparable art or craft. When form and structure reach harmony, architecture combines beauty with function. Outstanding architecture works on the Web can educate students and raise their awareness and appreciations of both the built and natural environments. This way we can create a generation of citizens who understand the way in which architecture influences (and is influenced by) our environment and society. By learning to observe buildings and structures, spaces, and their relationships, students will become sensitive to elements like the effects of color, texture, light and shape, and consider how spaces and places feel when they are in them. They can learn to analyze their positive and negative reactions and see if they can connect them to design elements. They can also look for rhythm and pattern, simplicity and ornament, old and new in their own environment, think about values expressed in the design and notice the variety in their communities.

This pathfinder is aimed at students of eight to sixteen years old who can read with comprehension and search for architecture related information online for personal interests or school projects. The other aim is to help their family members who want find similar information either for helping with school assignments and personal interests or guidance in broadening the students' knowledge. The pathfinder will help answer questions like: where can I find some information about architecture works of the U.S. or the world? What is the tallest building in the world today? What is Japanese architecture style?

Because sites connected with architecture vary in quality, suitability, reliability and coverage, I followed 3 stages in my search for information: firstly, I went to the Architecture and Planning Library at the University of Texas at Austin, borrowed architecture books and scanned them to review the famous and representative buildings, structures and architects of the world.

Secondly, I set up evaluation criteria for my selection process:

    1. The information should be reliable and correct, referred by my reference books.

    2. The language should be easy to read and understand, and preferably interesting. So many sites by professional architecture organizations are filtered out since their vocabulary is unsuitable for my intended audiences.

    3. If two sites have similar information, the one that is more graphically attractive or has more interactive links will be preferred.

    4. Due to the need for reliability and authenticity, sites like "pbs.org," "discovery.org" or those chosen by credible academic institutions should have priority in selection.

The third step, I searched in Google.com by key words "architecture education", "kids or children or young adults", "Chinese China architecture", also some university web sites, and selected links that looked promising. I found about 30 sites in this process.
The fourth step was to evaluate the sites, compare them with my standards, select ones suitable for my audiences, write annotations about them, and group sources for the pathfinder.

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Annotated Bibliography

  1. The American Museum of Photography. Of Bricks and Light. Accessed 1 October 2001.
    About 33 pictures are taken by early professional photographers during the first 75 years of photography history. This exhibition provides some unique views to look at architecture works.  The play of light and shadows brought by the architecture works and their surrounding environment emphasizes a connection between architecture and art, and let the viewers feel the passage of time through the images of these buildings that may still stand today. A pleasant site for a retrospective tour.

  2. Artifice, Inc. The Great Buildings Collection.Accessed 29 September 2001.
    The Great Buildings Collection is an international database listing more than 800 architectural buildings and 432 architects. Time coverage ranges from prehistory to modern days. There are two indexes for architects and places, a page of tables of architecture types, timelines, construction types, climates, contexts, architectural elements and topics, and editors' choices, all with links to further details. The advanced search includes access points like construction type, date, styles and other features. The site also has links in every page promoting commercial items like books or 3D models that are related to architecture. The coverage on the Western world is adequate. The interface is well designed but the content is inadequate when it comes to Asia or Africa.  For example, in "China" site there are 8 links, only 2 of which have photos, both buildings are located in Hong Kong. One item is misplaced because it is a Japanese structure. None of the other 5 links has a photo.
    It is useful for a basic knowledge of the most famous architecture works in the Western world and barely a glance of one building or two each in Islamic, African, Japanese or Chinese culture. It is suitable for a school report about architecture in Western world.

  3. Boston College. A Digital Archive of American Architecture. Accessed 12 October 2001.
    An excellent site of American architecture from 17th century to 20th century with color slides. Buildings or structures are indexed by categories of time period, types, chronology, location, and styles. Each structure has a photo, name, location and basic dimension. There is a special page for Boston and Chicago architecture, another one for comparative materials in Europe, focusing on Romanesque and Gothic Architecture and two of LeCorbusier's major works.  Highly recommended for browsing.

  4. Burns, Ian. Ian's Land of Castles. Accessed 20 September 2001.
    What is interesting about this site is not its content, which is simple and mainly only includes 6 questions and their answers with photos, but the fact that the site was created by Ian Burns when he was an 8-year-old boy in 1997. This should make the site attractive and inspiring to other kids of similar age with similar interests. It also makes it worthy for a pathfinder. Links included are castle related materials like books, other sites about castles and medieval times, and drawings of castles send to the site owner by kids who joined his "drawing contest".

  5. Columbian Elementary School ThinkQuest Team: Ross, Alex and Matt. Architecture Through the Ages. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    This site is built by ThinkQuest team members from Columbian Elementary School, Omaha, Nebraska. The purpose is to help the 5th and 6th grade students of the Omaha Public Schoos in their Architecture Exposition project. Content is a table that divides time periods into 7 sections, ranging from ancient Egypt to the present, plus a short glossary, a list of 6 references, and an album with 11 photos. Essays about each period are short, providing general and very basic architectural information for middle school students.


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  6. Cube, Center for Understanding the Built Environment. Architectivities. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    The site provides different activities for 3 groups: kids, community-building, and teachers. Each group has 4 activities listed, linked to detailed information about the content of the activity and photos. Interesting readings and ideas about architectural activities like building a paper "house" hat, or the Box City project that asking school kids planning and designing their own "cities", then building their designs with paper and painting the "cities" with colors, illustrated with photos. An interesting and inspiring site with unique ideas in architecture activities for kids.

  7. Discovery Channel. Buildings, Bridges, and Tunnels. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    As the title indicated, this is about skyscrapers, bridges, and tunnels of the modern world. Interactive links brings up short movies illustrating how to dig a tunnel, exploring the longest suspension bridge in the world. The main page of each topic provides links leading to information about next generation of the structure, TV video, Web links, and this type of structures in the world, accompanied by essays with data and photos. For example, a chart lists all skyscrapers that had been the tallest in the world, with links to detailed information about each building: height, location, current rank, developer, architect and status. A good site for those who are interested in skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels, also suitable for school projects.

  8. Earthlore. Gothic Dreams: Appreciating a Cultural Legacy. 13 October 2001. Accessed 13 October 2001.
    A detailed coverage about Gothic architecture, including pictures of buildings, and a lengthy "Theme Introduction" about the origin, style, history, time period, and meaning of Gothic architecture. "Notre Dame de Paris" is used as the representative feature of Gothic cathedrals. Then the exploration and developing features of the style are introduced through other examples. A special page of glossary of terms and cathedral components gives an in-depth knowledge. In the last part, the site invites the audience to participate in  "the Virtual Cathedral Project:  Rosarium Sophia," which has started three years ago. For anyone who is interested in Gothic architecture, this is an excellent site.

  9. FHW. The Federation of High-Rise Websites. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    Claimed to be "the largest group of skyscraper websites on the entire Internet," this is a gateway leading to fifteen sites for skyscrapers all over the world. Features include Chicago's Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies Van der Rohe, Philadelphia City Hall and Dutch high-rises. Sites with worldwide coverage like "skyscrapers.com" and "skyscraperpage.com" are detailed and quite exhaustive. The weakness is that the overall quality is not even: three of the links are obsolete. One site is in German and the other in Chinese.

  10. Frimart srl. 40 Centuries of Architecture. Accessed 1 October 2001.
    An Italian site for 4 architecture styles: Egyptian, Greek, Islamic, and Romanesque. Each style page is indexed by localities, subjects and periods. This is the most exhaustive site for Greek and Romanesque architecture works with photos of architecture details. A serious drawback is that the majority of photos are in black and white, making them much less attractive to young audience. Notes on the Islamic site are in Italian.

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  11. Lee, Alexander, James Arndt and Shane Goldmacher. Architecture Through the Ages. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    Created by three 14 years old middle school students, the site is a collection of ancient architecture buildings from the Mayan, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Aztec, Egyptian and classical period. Essays are written in simple language, but the lacking of photos in some pages makes it less stimulating. It is adequate for general information about architecture in ancient cultures.

  12. Lee, Paul. Shanghai Architecture. 1998. Accessed 1 October 2001.
    The more suitable name for this site should be "Colonial style architecture of Shanghai". All the buildings are built before 1943 when the Westerners had much more power than the Chinese in China, and thus symbolize colonization. The buildings bring a sense of history, development, modernization and metropolitan.

  13. The Leo Masuda Architectonic Research Office. Japanese Architecture in Kyoto. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    This is a good site both for a virtual tour and for actual sightseeing in Kyoto, the capital of Japan from 794 to 1869. With its well-designed and meticulously maintained palaces and elegant gardens, Kyoto is considered as a manifestation of the Japanese architecture aesthete in its purest form. Thirty one architecture buildings including temples, shrines and the Imperial Palace are presented with photos and short comments: specific points that need to be paid attention to, what special treasures the buildings hold, access directions, opening times and phone numbers are also listed.  There is also a link leading to "Japanese Architecture" site for a broader coverage of Japan's other architecture styles like castles, shrines and traditional dwellings.

  14. MIT Libraries. Rotch Visual Collections: The Kidder Smith Slide Archives on American Architecture.  Accessed 1 October 2001.
    A collection of 3400 slides, documenting 305 buildings, accessible from MIT library site. Time period coverage is from pre-Columbia to 1978, geographical coverage include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Three indexes: site name, architects and artists, and geographic. An excellent site for regional architecture works.

  15. National Building Museum. National Building Museum: Main Directory. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    This government site focuses on architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning of the United States. Information provided is perceived as authoritative and reliable.  The content has substantial information ranging from blueprints magazine, exhibitions, to publications. The site is not suited for elementary or middle school aged students but for high school students or adults.

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  16. NOVA Online. China Bridge. January 2000. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    The companion site to the NOVA program, "China Bridge". In 1999 a group of Chinese and American scholars and local Chinese timber framers designed and build a bridge in Suzhou, China. The designers tried to copy, as close as they could, one of the most famous bridges in ancient China from a 900 years old painting. They also tried to use the same method and materials - mainly bamboo -- to build it. The site provides information about this story, which has a successful ending. The link "Bridge the Gap" uses an interactive game to make viewers "participators" of the program: matching 4 different sites with 4 different bridge models and build bridges.  Further information on bamboo and its broad usage in Chinese culture is provided. Other parts of the site introduced China's invention including printing, movable types, paper money, porcelain, restaurants, tea, gunpowder and compass. A very interesting and recommendable site for any age.

  17. NOVA Online. Fall of the Leaning Tower. October 1999. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    The companion site to the NOVA program, "Fall of the Leaning Tower". The pages introduce detailed information about the Leaning Tower of Pisa: a lengthy history, a pictured interview with a professor of soil mechanics about the condition of the tower, and the efforts made to maintain its condition. An interesting page is where all the past efforts and mistakes made in intervention with the tower are listed. Like other NOVA architectural sites, there is an interactive page for conducting a game of three virtual experiments modeled after Galileo's virtual thought experiments. Other links in the site include information about other famous architecture works that need to be protected, like Philae Temple in Egypt or Borobudur Temple in Java. It is an excellent site for all ages.

  18. NOVA Online. Pyramid. 1997. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    Detailed information of three major Egyptian pyramids (Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure) including history, inside and outside maps and pictures.  Also included are pictures of the Sphinx and its history, a historical introduction about Giza with interactive maps, detailed information about all excavations including maps, and transcripts of NOVA's broadcasting programs about pyramids. This is an interesting, well-designed, authoritative and interactive site providing reliable information, and a strongly recommended source for children, young adults and families.  

  19. NOVA Online. Roman Bath. January 2000. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    The companion site to the NOVA program, "Roman Bath". The program is about how a group of engineers, archeologists and historians designed and build a Roman bath in modern Turkey, using ancient materials and methods as much as they could. Photos showed the process of planning, picking a site, making concrete, laying the tiled floor and finally using the bath to take a bath in ancient Roman fashion. Interactive links in another page, "A Day at the Baths," lead viewers for a virtual tour of the Baths of Caracalla. A game in "Construct an Aqueduct" guides the viewers to build a "virtual" aqueduct that will support the Roman city of Aqueducts with clean water. Other pages include information about the Roman's water distribution system and real Roman recipes, and links to teachers' guide and resources leading other sites related to the topic of ancient Romans.

  20. PBS. Frank Lloyd Wright. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    The best site about the most famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. All ten of his major works are listed, each with drawings, pictures of exterior and interior, critical response, parallel architectural movements, short introduction of Wright's life and his personal photos at the time that specific work was being designed. It can be a very satisfactory reference site for a high school paper.

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  21. Shillingburg, Patricia. Architecture for Kids: A History of American Houses. 1998. Accessed 29 September 2001.
    The site focuses on American houses, most of them constructed by builders without architectural training from plans drawn by architects. Time coverage ranges from Colonial times to the present, divided into five sections with essays and photos. The site is in the process of being updated. At present half of the main pages have no content. The essays are clear-written and easy to understand. It is useful primary for a basic knowledge of American houses in different periods and their styles.

  22. The Scribe. Castles on the Web. 12 July 1995. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    An exhaustive gateway site for castles of the world and many miscellaneous topics about castles. Put together by one person with a pen name "the Scribe", the content lists not only castles, but also palaces and great homes, abbeys and churches. The category "Castles for Kids" leads to interactive pages with games, sites and software about castles. The best part is Castle Tours, in which castles all over the world are listed with beautiful photos and detailed and lengthy introductions, sometimes signed by authors. It is a good reference site for anybody at any age who is interested in castles.

  23. ThinkQuest Team 23378. Seven Wonders of the World.Accessed 30 September 2001.
    The site lists seven man-made structures in the world in places ranging from Brazil and China to the U.S. with detailed information about each one with photos and interactive maps. The time period covers from 14th century to modern days. In the sense of architecture, the creators divide space around us into distance, height, depth, and discuss these topics in different pages. They then divided architecture structures into four types according to their functions: "spiritual needs," "protection," "public usage" and "utilizing nature's power to serve people." The information is easy to read and concise. The game page provides simple interactive games that can be used to test how much the viewer has learned from the site, or just for the fun of it. The "Wonder Experience" page links to other famous architecture works. It is an educational and engaging site for both students and adults.

  24. Thomas, Jeffrey L.  The Castles of Wales. 1 October 2001. Accessed 30 September 2001.
    This is an excellent site introducing medieval castles of Wales, with many links leading to various information about the site creators, ancient Welsh abbeys and language, Welsh men who build these castles, their times and rebellions and other sites. Large numbers of excellent pictures and two virtual tours are offered. Two hundred twenty seven castles counted in the index, the majority has photos, and all entries are signed. Other information listed in the content include historical essays, castle terminology, Britain's castle studies group, "fun stuff" like "mystery castle of the month" and other "odds & ends". This is one of the most exhaustive and well-designed sites I have seen, and valuable for anybody who is interested in the castles or specifically the castles of Wales.

  25. Westerhoff, Jack and Beth Stevens. Gargoyles Then and Now. July 1994. Accessed 12 October 2001.
    Basic knowledge about Gargoyles: what is a Gargoyle, natural and unnatural history of Gargoyles, and then a tour of cathedrals in Europe as to where can Gargoyles be found, who they represent, what they look like and what they are doing as the way they are presented in sculpture. Very interesting facts about Gargoyles! One blemish is that half of the pictures are in black and white.

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Pathfinder

Today people live in, work in, or walk around buildings and experience architecture on a daily basis. The design decisions taken by architects in the near or distant past affect them more directly than any other comparable art or craft. Outstanding architecture works on the Web can educate students and raise their awareness and appreciations of both the built and natural environments. Then we can create a generation of citizens who understand the way in which architecture influences (and is influenced by) our environment and society.
This pathfinder is aimed at students of eight to sixteen years old who can read with comprehension and search for architecture related information online for personal interests or school projects. The other aim is to help their family members who want find similar information either for helping with school assignments and personal interests or guidance in broadening the students' knowledge.

Where can I find general information about architecture works of the world?

The Great Buildings Collection
Architecture Through the Ages (ThinkQuest)
Architecture Through the Ages (Lee)
Of Bricks and Light
40 Centuries of Architecture

Where can I find sites that focus on American architecture?

National Buliding Museum: Main Directory
Frank Lloyd Wright
Architecture for Kids: History of American Houses
Rotch Visual Collections: The Kidder Smith Slide Archives on American Architecture
A Digital Archive of American Architecture

Where can I find information about the tall buildings of the world?

The Federation of High-Rise Websites

Where can I find information about Far Eastern architecture?

China Bridge
Japanese Architecture in Kyoto

Where can I find information about castles?

Castles on the Web
Ian's Land of Castles
The Castles of Wales

Where can I find information about Gothic architecture?

Gothic Dreams: Appreciating a Cultural Legacy

Where can I find information about ancient architecture works?

Fall of the Leaning Tower
Roman Bath
Pyramid
Seven Wonders of the World

Are there sites about architecture activities for kids?

Architectivities

If you need further information, please contact me at nliang@ischool.utexas.edu, or ask a reference librarian for assistance.

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