• Pont-de-Buis, on the Doufine, France, c. 1865. Jules DuClos (French). Albumen print from wet collodion negative; 33.8 x 30.1 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1996.242

Building Basics

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 
Middle School

Buildings are everywhere, from strong towering skyscrapers to precarious footbridges. But how do they work, and what keeps them standing? Students in this program will explore the structural properties and geometry of buildings through artwork from the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection. They will be asked to get involved in discussion of the structures examined and will even have the exciting chance to engineer their own mini-structure with paper.

Program Format: 
  • Introduce the idea of looking at structures and understanding how they stand up.
  • Discussion of bridges and beams, and overview Newton's laws of motion and gravity.
  • View and discuss artworks with depictions of columns and arches in buildings and bridges.
  • Introduce the geometry of trusses and view artworks, including images of the Eiffel Tower.
  • View depictions of domes, rib vaults, and folded plate construction.
  • Practice identifying the different types of structures in various artworks.
  • Building interactivity with students working in groups - using paper and tape to create a weight-bearing structure of their own.
  • Students will learn common geometric features seen in architecture.
  • Students will understand the basic physics involved in architecture.
  • Students will learn the engineering principle of the "folded plate."
  • Students will learn the construction techniques that engineers use to stabilize a structure.