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Balcony Bones & Beehive Rooms: Building with Imagination

Create fanciful architecture with inspiration from nature like the famous Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Introduce students to the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi who designed fanciful buildings inspired by images from nature. Visitors to Barcelona, Spain are fascinated by them. Using the Internet and other resources, show students pictures of his work such as "La Pedrera," "Parc Guell," and "La Sagrada Familia." An excellent picture book resource with intriguing illustrations for this lesson is "Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi" by Rachael Rodriguez.
    2. Discuss how architects consider the purposes for which certain buildings are intended and the particular people who will be using them. In what ways do Gaudi's building differ from more traditional architects' designs?
    3. Invite the class to work together to create a small town of Gaudi type buildings. Consider the types of buildings most towns have: homes, offices buildings, a library, post office, schools, factories, hospitals, government buildings, etc. Then ask students to divide into architectural teams with each team designing a different building.
    4. Suggest that students create sketches of possible ideas, considering possible shapes from nature to use for doors, windows, balconies, roofs, etc. Then ask them to think about how to create a 3D model of the building using recycled cardboard boxes, paper, and basic art supplies such as Crayola® Ultra-Clean Washable Markers, Watercolor Pencils, Educational Water Colors, Washable Glue Sticks and scissors.
    5. Remind students that they can add dimensionality to their work by folding, curling, and/or cutting papers to form tunnels, towers, roof lines, chimneys, doors and windows that open and close, etc. If they are using water base materials they can create texture by dabbing or sliding the corner of a wet paper towel over colored areas. This techniques can also be used to blend colors. For example, rather than using a single green for the leaves of a tree, use several different greens and then blend them with the wet towel or a paintbrush dipped in water.
    6. Once teams have finished their projects, allow time for them to create a small town with their buildings. Invite members of each team to tell classmates about their buildings and the process they went through to create them. How will their buildings be used and by whom? Why did they design them the way they did? What problems did they encounter and how did they resolve them? What effect do they feel elements of their designs will have on the people using the buildings?
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

    SCI: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools such as atlases, data bases, grid systems, charts, graphs, and maps to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    VA: Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art making or designing.

  • Adaptations

    Encourage students to research other unique architectural creations such as "Falling Water" by Frank Lloyd Wright, "The Towers of Watts," Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, Grandma Prisby's Bottle Village in California, or sod houses built by American pioneers.

    Plan a field trip to see unique structures in your own area.

    Read an excerpt from the opening chapters of "The Hobbit" that describes Bilbo Baggins' hobbit hole. Invite interested students to research some of the Hobbit like homes that have been built in various parts of Britain as well as throughout the world. Interesting photos of such homes can be found at


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