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Architecture in the Classroom

A study of architecture easily fits into classroom units on:

  • your school
  • your community or neighborhood
  • your city

Or, into educational themes or school events such as:

Open House

  • Ask each student to draw the front of his/her house and tape it on his/her desk.
  • Research the history of your school and have students list important facts concerning its name, date of construction, design, and use.
  • Ask each student to write about design changes he/she would like to make to the school or classroom.

Black History Month

  • Read PHLF’s guidebook, August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays. Click here for guidebook information.
  • Find out what buildings in your community are associated with African-American history. Visit your local library to borrow a copy of A Legacy in Bricks and Mortar: African-American Landmarks in Allegheny County.

Earth Week

Preserving old buildings and adapting them for new uses are forms of recycling. Select a vacant or underutilized building in your neighborhood and ask your students to draw a poster or make a model showing how it could be adapted for a new use.

Architecture can be incorporated into the following subject areas in a variety of ways:


Use architecture to study shapes, or in discussions about multiplication (rows of windows in a skyscraper), fractions, mapping exercises, area, perimeter, etc.

Downtown Landmarks: Math Facts

Download these three worksheets and 10 story-problem cards featuring Pittsburgh places, appropriate for elementary and middle school students. Students use estimating, measuring, graphing, geometry, and problem-solving skills as they answer questions relating to ten downtown landmarks. Download the worksheets here!


Study the effects of the environment (climate and pollution) on building materials and structures. Discuss the relationship between the natural and built environment. Discuss the structural principles involved in constructing buildings to withstand gravity, wind, earthquakes, and the weight of people and building materials.

Social Studies/Language Arts

Write about your home, school, or neighborhood (from memory and then by actually visiting the particular site). Imagine and write about what it would be like to be an old abandoned building. Interview family members or friends to find out how your neighborhood has changed. Look for architectural references in literature.


Artwork isn’t just in frames. “A city is the artwork of its people,” writes noted urban designer David Lewis. Use architecture to discuss line, shape, texture, color, pattern, scale, proportion, perspective, shadow, etc.

Use architecture as the basis for a variety of art projects: designing your own school or house; making block prints, murals, or three-dimensional cities; or experimenting with materials, colors, textures, and patterns.

Foreign Languages

Develop a vocabulary list of basic architectural words. Show photographs of architectural landmarks found in foreign countries. Discuss how architecture expresses the culture of a country. Compare and contrast the foreign architecture with the architecture of your hometown.


Use photos of buildings or streetscapes to talk about rhythm: tap the beat seen in the pattern of porches, or in the pattern of windows or doorways.

Arrange a bus tour to Heinz Hall, the Byham Theatre, or the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. While downtown, travel on the subway and listen to the classical music being played at each Downtown station.

Teach your students some of the songs that have been written about Pittsburgh or by Pittsburgh-born composers, including Stephen Collins Foster.

Tour several historic religious properties (such as Heinz Chapel or Calvary United Methodist Church) so your students have the opportunity to hear music performed in magnificent buildings.

Physical Education

Put together a jogging or walking tour route for your students. Make a map of the tour route, noting the area landmarks: buildings, parks, sign posts, street names, etc.

Discuss the principles involved in making a building stand up and apply those principles to agility exercises such as handstands and back bends. Construct a building out of people and act out the forces in architecture: please see Architecture & Bodybuilding.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633