Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crooked Buildings Cityscapes

Using the work of James Rizzi, our local architect, Frank Gehry, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as inspiration, 5th graders created a fanciful, foam core cityscape. This idea was born last Spring when I was given what seemed like A MOUNTAIN of foam core scraps and wanted to find a way to use them. I was also enchanted with the work of Rizzi and Gehry, so this project seemed like a natural.

Students began with one large, one medium and one small foam core building and a background of illustration board. I asked that they alternate warm and cool colors, their background color determining the order of their colors. On Day #1, students painted the buildings, windows and cars (which were optional).

I thought about having this as an alternate background -- 3 horizontal strips of foam core, but decided to stay with the single board because of time restraints.
Then, switching to small brushes, they painted line or dot designs on their background.
These are on the drying racks.
On Day #2, this week, using small brushes and straws as stamps, students added details to their work using flourescent and gold paint. They outlined windows with markers and had the option of collaging small areas of silver foil and pictures of faces from magazines.

The layers of foam core were glued on top of each other, giving each piece a lot of depth. I did have one moment of panic when the larger buildings started to curl and not lay flat with the liquid glue (the smaller ones were fine). Fortunately I had a glue gun and a full bag of sticks, so I could reinforce their work by zapping them with hot glue. Disaster averted!! The Glue All worked fine for everything else.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED watching the kids create these whimsical cityscapes and overheard one little guy saying, "I just love my city!!" This was a great springboard for discussion about color, repetition, balance and size. It was also one of those "no-fail" projects where ALL the results would look fabulous framed and hanging on a wall! The last class had a few extra minutes and we looked at an architectural ABC book I have that generated even more discussion. I would do this lesson again in a nanosecond!!!!


  1. these are fun!!! I'm doing a Rizzi lesson with my 4th grade right now...tryin' to relax a little after reviewing 1 point & introducing 2 point perspective over the past few weeks. THEY LOVE IT!

  2. These are so whimsical and fun!What an original lesson to honor Rizzi and Gehry. Fantastic Christie!

  3. They came out great, Christie! I've been waiting to see what your Rizzi project would look like.

    You must have spent forever cutting all those interesting shapes from your foam core. (Mine were all hacked up on the paper cutter but your shapes are way more complex so you must have hand-cut each piece individually.)

    I bet the kids really enjoyed this project!

  4. They LOVED it Phyl. I don't think it really took that long (although it was last June, so the memory has faded!)
    I kept a really sharp blade and a lot of the foam core came already cut to suitable sizes, so I could just do a diagonal roof line and then odd diagonals to break up the buildings. As I recall, I put on the TV, had a good cup of Starbucks and just started hacking away. Before I knew it, I was done!! Whatever it took, it was WELL worth it for the enjoyment we all had!!

  5. These are AWESOME! I love the colors and patterns! :)

  6. Your students did a fantastic job.
    Wonderful sense of colors,lines and patterns