Why World History Through Architecture?

This subject matter is quite personal to me; I hope after reading this post, you will consider architecture paired alongside world history a valuable and interesting course of study as well.

Guggenheim Museum, New York

My late mother, being the eclectic person she was, tootled my sister and I all over the US and the world to see beautiful things—which often encompassed cool buildings. I remember when my grandfather passed away, I was in middle school. We traveled to Chicago for his funeral. What did we do after the funeral? We toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. Also while in middle school, we traveled to the East Coast. Where did we tour while on that trip? The Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, and the Guggenheim Museum. In those days, we were even admitted to tour the Statue of Liberty crown! (Ahhh, the good old days!) My mother had a knack for finding unique lodging accommodations as well. Where did we find ourselves sleeping one night during that summer trip? In a youth hostel hosted on a battleship — docked in a harbor on the East Coast. Did we get a great night’s sleep—no way! (The heat was stifling!) Do I remember that trip? I sure do!

Hieropolis, Denzili, Turkey

In unique physical space experiences like these, I developed a thirst for more fascinating historical physical spaces that have led my husband and I, and our three children to tour some astounding places. And, it’s history we all still remember! The Imperial Palace in Thailand, Great Wall of China, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Versailles (and chateaus and Chartres) in France, Colosseum in Rome, Acropolis in Athens, and more!

Forbidden City, China

Why have we added this eclectic world history course to our online class lineup?

Because…world history should never be dull! We have found a way to contextualize study through exploring physical world monuments along the way. The literature text, History Quest, is a fabulous book that pairs well with a study of history and monuments; many of the History Hops! (in History Quest) and various chapters mention the very monuments we are exploring. We’ll use an architecture reference book to help fill out the buildings.

But—why architecture?

#1) Buildings are unique.

If we are studying world history, the buildings from a variety of cultures would tell us something different. Imagine we surveyed Mesa Verde in Colorado and Notre Dame in Paris—we would see two very different monuments. While they overlapped in being built and utilized during the 12th century, one of them is built of adobe bricks and wood, and the other is created from limestone. The technology was very different. This gives clues as to the culture that built the monuments, and what they were trying to achieve. In Mesa Verde, it is thought they built encampments in the hillside crevices to keep safe from invading groups. In France at this same time, things were a bit different. Culture was more hierarchical with wealthy kings and queens and religious elites running things. In fact, commoners could have their sins forgiven if they helped to build these massive structures. The focus of the building was to spread religion (and often political influence) through erecting a great monument. There are very tangible questions that come up when looking at buildings.

#2) Travel, both foreign and domestic, often includes touring amazing historic structures.

The White House

Do you want to raise kids who love to travel? Chances are, if you went to Paris, you’d tour the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. If you went to Cairo, you’d want to see the pyramids. If you go to Washington DC, you might tour the White House. In LA, many people pay good money to go on Star Tours of movie star’s homes. It’s always fun to see where famous people live! When you find yourself in a new city, you might tour the buildings. They are a window into history.

#3) Buildings are epic.

Petronas Towers, Malaysia

Skyscrapers, ancient ruins, huge mosques, and epic cathedrals. They are inspirational and take our minds to new places. We feel like we have climbed a cosmic mountain when we tour these places as we consider how people at other time periods lived.

I have written more about architecture in Los Angeles in this post. Watch for more information on this topic! It’s one of the disciplines I explored with my own children in our own homeschool, during our first three years. We went on tours of historical homes, local monuments, etc.

More about the class

Careful consideration of structures that are both interesting and related to key moments of historical importance is a valuable use of time. These buildings have so much to tell us!

When: Thursdays at 10AM (75 minutes)

Dates: February 3 – April 28 (12 weeks)

Cost: $290 ($50 discount for private pay)

Grades: 4th-6th

Materials: See this page for a list of materials

If you have already studied world history, it will be a great review, using a fresh new perspective. If you have not yet studied world history this would be a fabulous introduction that will serve as a memorable jumping off point.

In addition, since architecture is both a science (engineering) and an art (making buildings look beautiful), we will explore both of these aspects through engineering challenges using blocks and Legos. We will also use sketchbooks to draw monuments and take notes.

Let’s raise world travelers!

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