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Introducing the Built Environment to Students

Surprisingly, though it affects all of us, the "built environment" is an understudied topic in Canadian classrooms. When addressed, it is usually presented in Art or Art History, occasionally Social Studies and, infrequently, Math, usually in relation to geometry.

The built environment, however, shapes us now, in our daily lives, and will certainly have a profound impact on us in the future. For example, are the public buildings and institutions that we have created in our city truly accessible to the disabled? For the elderly? For children? How do we design better buildings and why have certain architectural styles been adopted into our conventions of design? Can we have beauty and accessibility? 

How are architectural styles translated between cultures: for example, the arches of Islamic Africa and Spain appearing the Gothic cathedrals of Europe? How are these similarities explained in cultures that appear to have no ties of communication, such as the pyramid builders of Egypt and Meso-America? And why do these forms reappear in our modern design--consider Edmonton's City Hall.

The Heritage Community Foundation encourages projects that explore these issues, especially in relationship to the architectural heritage of Alberta (which certainly has impressive ancestors if we count the Egyptian or Meso-American pyramids as an antecedent to the design). We have funded a built environment and heritage project at Strathcona Composite High School that documented, through photographs, the environment at the Rossdale Power Plant, the closure of Eatons, the demolishing of a neighbourhood grocery and the final days of some of the grain elevators in Alberta. 

Though these projects were larger in scope than most teachers would try to integrate into their lessons, the Foundation has developed a brief list of resources--mostly from the United States--to introduce some of these concepts to their students. The Foundation, and its partners, hopes to develop curriculum materials and resources to support this endeavour, with a Canadian and Albertan outlook, and encourages interested teachers to explore the possibility of adding the built environment to their lessons.

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Resources

Careers

Alberta Association of Architects: Career Information

Alberta Occupational Profiles

Human Resources Development Canada: Job Futures 2000

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Class Plans

American Architectural Foundation: Learning by Design

Introduction: Educating Children Through Architecture

The National (US) Parks program: Teaching With Historic Places

Royal Australian Institute of Architects: Built Environment Education

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Organizations

Partners for Livable Communities

Sustainable Communities Network

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Reference

Architecture Through the Ages

Art: Teaching Resources, prepared by ERIC/CHESS

Cities/Buildings Database
Unfortunately, this database includes no Canadian images.

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Resources

Careers

Organizations

Reference

 


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