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The Architecture Handbook:
A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings

High School Architecture Curriculum


How did this project come together? Who was involved?
This project is based on the successful relationship among architectural drafting teachers, Chicago Public School (CPS) administrators, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) as a result of the Newhouse Program and Architecture Competition.

Beginning in August 2004, CAF developed curriculum content with a team of teachers, architects, and students. Forty members of the Chicago architecture community guided content that reflects architectural industry ideas and trends. Architectural drafting teachers in the CPS Education to Careers department guided CAF staff to determine appropriate lesson plans. Students from CPS drafting courses helped determine graphic identity of the book, and tested out several projects.

Why has the subject matter broadened to “architecture” from “architectural drafting”?
Students today need a wide variety of skills to help them succeed in college or careers. Architectural drafting is just one of the skills that will help them if they enter the field of architecture, engineering, or the building trades. However, all fields are changing and many require post-secondary education. In addition to drafting, students need more advanced skills in reading and mathematics. Today, colleges also desire students who can work in teams and creatively address problems to generate unique solutions while employers want skills more relevant to an economy based on innovation, flexibility, and creativity. The study of architecture provides this opportunity.

Why do architecture firms and schools of architecture think hand-drafting and sketching are still important for students today?
Technological advances, such as CAD, have radically transformed the architectural industry, but there will always be a need for basic skills. We still teach young children to both print and type their name, because both skills are important methods of communication. Likewise, the computer will never completely take the place of sketching and hand-drafting. Sketching becomes the way that architects think through ideas, and hand-drafting help students understand scale and think spatially. These abilities also help architects quickly relay their ideas to clients.

Why do architecture firms and colleges think problem solving, critical thinking skills, and solid math and reading fundamentals are just as important as drafting skills?
Colleges, in general, and schools of architecture in particular, are looking for well-rounded students. As architecture requires a broad base of skills in math, reading, writing, science, social sciences, and art, a solid academic base will help to ensure that students succeed in all of their courses.

Why is sustainable design and green architecture a focus of The Architecture Handbook?
Architecture is a major contributor to environmental pollution. The energy required to build and run residential, institutional and commercial buildings combined, accounts for 48% of energy consumed in the United States. Architects and consumers need to be aware of the environmental impact of buildings. Introducing students to the concepts of green building is an important step in creating informed homeowners and designers.

What is the F10 House and why was it chosen as the case study building?
The F10 House, designed by EHDD Architecture, was one of the winning designs in the City of Chicago’s Green Homes for Chicago competition in July 2000. The Department of Environment and the Department of Housing opened this international architecture competition for designs of affordable homes that would use innovative and energy-efficient building methods. In addition to being a great example of green design, the floor plans and elevations are basic enough for students learning to draft. Although the design of the home may appear more modern than many typical new homes, the typology, lot size, and floor plan arrangement is one that many students in urban areas will recognize and relate to.

What is the role of the design process in The Architecture Handbook?
Through the short and long hands-on activities in The Architecture Handbook, students have many opportunities to use the design process. Likewise, Project 6 brings together everything they’ve learned in Projects 1 through 5, uses the design process, and walks students through the steps of designing a new home for a client.

Using The Architecture Handbook in the classroom

What is the role of drafting (CAD or hand) in The Architecture Handbook?
The first 5 projects in the book are structured around the 5 different types of architectural drawings of the F10 House: the block plan, site plan, floor plan, elevation, and building section. A full set of construction drawings is included in the student edition, while the teacher edition includes PDFs of the drawings at full scale. Students in a beginning architectural drafting class will learn the basic skills of technical drawing while replicating the drawings and working through small design projects throughout the book.

Students not in an architectural drafting course can still use the 5 types of drawings to learn about the built environment through sketching, research projects, and design activities included in the teacher edition.

Is special software required to use The Architecture Handbook? What is the role of the computer in this curriculum?
Because technological resources vary widely from school to school, no special software is required. Drafting projects outlined in the book can be completed by CAD or by hand drafting. The computer is used for multiple purposes in this curriculum. In addition to drafting, computer-based activities in the teacher edition include web-based research, online mapping, and aerial photographs.

Why are team activities included in the book, in addition to individual architectural drafting projects?
Many occupations that students will enter after high school or college will require that they know how to work as part of a team. In the field of architecture, this is especially true.

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The Architecture Handbook


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