How have the buildings we live in changed over the years?

Alison Mac Cormaic 3
Alison Mac Cormaic 1
Alison Mac Cormaic 2
Experts:
Alison Mac Cormaic
School:
Killasolan National School
Subjects:
Science, History

My most recent heritage school visit was to Killasolan National School in east County Galway. It is a small school with two classes, and the whole school, from junior infants to 6thclass, worked together on all the activities throughout the day. During the workshop I posed the question ‘How have the buildings we live in changed over the years?’ To identify this the students investigated Irish built heritage through a range of activities. Via a PowerPoint we analysed images of different everyday architecture, examining the changes in building technologies that give us clues to the age of a buildings. An investigation of historical window design and glass making was used as a case study to show how modernisation in manufacture influences the look of buildings. We looked at the size of windows, dressed stone, wood and plastic. The students used Lego blocks to discover the power of ‘strong corner’ quoin stones, and in groups put images of building from each century into chronological order.

After first break we went outside to explore the local architecture, both new and old. The school is situated on a quiet country road with only a small range of buildings nearby, but that didn’t stop us finding strong stone corners, decorative quoin stones, gable ends and old, broad chimneys. We discovered what building motifs from the past have made their way as decoration onto modern buildings, and we played ‘built heritage bingo’, ticking off as many features as we could find. In the afternoon we investigated the ‘Golden Rectangle’ and its 2000-year influence on building design. The use of columns and the arrangement and proportion of windows have developed since the time of Greek temples, via the Renaissance, filtering down from the façades of ‘the big house’ to the streetscapes of 19thcentury main streets in local towns. Incorporating maths, the students designed a shop front using the ‘Golden Rectangle’ to measure the ‘correct’ classical proportions.

Over the course of the fun and fact filled day, the students examined the important role of materials and technology in the look of architecture, identified how to tell the age of a building through its features and discovered built heritage unique to their own local environment.