We live outside a city that has a large and diversified skyline. We see it all the time,
up close or even, on a clear day, from Oak Park. Adrienne McMullen, local architect and
coordinator for OPEF’s Architecture Adventure programming, used this local treasure
trove of architecture as a springboard into student-designed and -created skylines.
The first step for the Hatch 5th graders was a field trip downtown for the Chicago
Architecture Foundation’s Skyscraper Tour. Students then viewed photos of other skylines
and learned to identify a “landmark structure,” such as a bridge, a waterfront, or a unique
building, that stands out as a sort of focal point of the city.
In their classes with art teacher Molly Burns and Ms. McMullen, the students then
began designing their own landmark structure, and then around that, they created
their own skylines. For instance, Sam K’s skyline included buildings for different types
of activities: “Eating [called “The Big Soup”], economics, library, hang-out building,
courthouse (where lawyers work) grocery store, apply-for-jobs building.”
The students worked for 3 weeks on idea generation, sketching, and the final drawing on
corrugated cardboard. On this particular day, they were finishing their sketches on the
posters and cutting out the skylines. By cutting them out, they achieve the effect of a real
skyline up against the sky. X-Acto knives ruled the day, so plenty of parent volunteers were
on hand to help do the cutting! The next step will be to paint the skylines.
Sarah B.’s landmark structure was a circus behind the tall buildings. She did this in
response to Ms. Burns’ suggestion that they not have any gaps between buildings. She likes
the circus and it would fill in the background well.
Joanna G’s skyline included a building shaped like a cello. Joanna is an avid cello player. “I
think it’s interesting how everyone has different ideas. Some have symmetrical buildings
and skylines. Some buildings are flat on top and some are slanted. And some people
included cool shapes and even faces.”
As parent Emily C. observed, “They can explore what they want to do and let their
personalities come out.”
Monika K. explained, “I based this building on the one with a diagonal top in Chicago.
Adrienne said it was too similar to that so I made two of them and connected them together
with a bridge.” She also had a clock tower that she said is “kind of like Big Ben in London.”
So in addition to their own ideas the students picked up ideas from viewing many different