photo by Ginger Yarrow

With a color photo of the Beijing Water Cube as a guide, Promise A. was recreating the Olympic structure in her sketchpad. Noticing that the lines on either side of the structure were equal, she was working on creating the right perspective and angle.

Promise and her classmates in Ms. Raia’s 5th grade art classes at Longfellow are creating their own renditions of famous structures from around the world, with the added bonus of having 2 local architects in the room, along with Ms. Raia, to consult as they grapple with depth, detail, color, shape, and perspective.

Tom Bassett-Dilley and Rosanne McGrath are visiting Ms. Raia’s class this month as part of OPEF’s Architecture Adventure program. Last week, Adrienne McMullen, architect and Architecture Adventure program coordinator, gave the 5th graders a slide presentation of various famous structures from around the world after which they chose one structure to sketch. On this particular day, Mr. Bassett-Dilley was sharing his own sketch book with the students to give them a sense of the process–the sketches of scenes or buildings, the sketches of details, the trial-and-error aspect of sketching, the use of pencil and the use of color. One student asked, “Do you ever have time to just draw?” and he told them, pointing to his sketch book, “Well, this is it. But I used to do a lot more. I got busy with work and my 2 young kids.”

Promise A. liked the fact that the architects are “taking their time to help us and communicate with us
and show us how to do it the right way. They told us about what it takes if you want to be an artist–like
walking in their shoes to hear how they used to draw and how they draw now.”

Sitting across from Promise with her 21st century Water Cube was Jacob S., who chose the Parthenon
from ancient Athens. “It was different from all the others. They are all new and modern. I like buildings
with columns, that type of architecture, and, well, this has a lot of columns!” He thinks it’s “cool” to
have the architects come in “since their actual job is architecture–designing real buildings that then
have been made.”

On the other side of the room, Jannai B. was going through a bit of her own trial and error with her
sketch of the Reichstag Dome in Berlin. Ms. Raia was giving her some instructions on the curvature of
the lines and reminded Jannai of a project the kids had done a few years ago–“It’s like the lines on a
pumpkin.” This particular building has a sculpture of a cyclone in the middle of it. In trying to figure out
how to get that effect, Jannai noticed it was like the center of an angel food cake pan. And then she was
off–she had her cyclone! She said she likes nature and likes drawing things in nature and she agreed
that a cyclone is certainly part of nature as well.

Other students were recreating a variety of structures from the Gherkin Building in London to the
Korean War Memorial in Washington D. C. This latter structure inspired a conversation at the table

about what the Korean War was all about as Hasani C., who likes to draw action figures, carefully
replicated the metal images on his sketchpad.

The sketches will be on display at the Oak Park Library in November. Click here to see a slideshow of pictures by Ginger Yarrow.