10 Buildings Curriculum


Attention, Students!

Design a building that would make your community better! Explore the history of a place and shape its future through your own designs. Test structural design ideas and create scale drawings of your architectural ideas. Become an architect for your community – get started today!

Attention, Teachers!

The PBS television special, 10 Buildings that Changed America, can be used as an interdisciplinary teaching tool for grades 6-12. Lesson plans are provided that support academic standards in the core subjects of English Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Mathematics, and Science. Each lesson plan can be used as a complete stand-alone lesson or can be combined with other subjects to create an interdisciplinary architecture-themed unit. Each lesson plan contains recommendations for interdisciplinary connections with other core subjects. For a truly multidisciplinary unit, all five lessons are combined into One Building to Change My Community.

Lesson Plans

Download the full curriculum as a PDF

English Language Arts: Historic Landmarks: Research and Writing
Students will research and write about a historic landmark, the Seagram Building, describing why the building is considered a landmark and discussing its positive and negative influence on the local community and/or the community at large.

Social Studies: Build Something Better: Economic Impacts of Development
Students will propose an architectural solution (e.g., new building, renovation, plaza, courtyard) for their community. Proposals will consider the impact of new economic development on communities using Southdale Center in Minnesota, the first regional shopping mall, as a case study. This lesson focuses on critical thinking skills, enabling students to understand the consequences, both intended and unintended, of economic development.

Art: Make Your Mark: Design with a Purpose
Students will design a new building for their community, explaining how their ideas influenced their artistic decisions. The Vanna Venturi house provides a case study of how one architect designed with a purpose, demonstrating how design decisions can be evidence of the architect’s intentions.

Mathematics: It’s in the Details: Math and Scale
Students will learn the concept of scale and why it is important for architects. Using a scale drawing of the Wainwright Building, students will take measurements and make calculations, culminating in the creation of a scale detail drawing of the building.

Science: Catenary Curves: Scientific Investigations
Students will design and conduct an experiment about catenary curves and their structural qualities. Using Dulles International Airport as a case study, students will investigate how catenary curves are important to the structure of the building.


The PBS television program, 10 Buildings That Changed America, contains the following content, which some teachers may consider inappropriate for younger or more sensitive students:

  • In the Dulles Airport segment (used in the Science unit), Reed Kroloff says, “Damn right.”
  • In the Vanna Venturi House segment (used in the Art unit), Robert Venturi makes an obscene gesture. It is electronically masked, but in a way that makes his intention clear.
  • In the Southdale Mall segment (used in the Social Studies unit), Victor Gruen is quoted calling later shopping malls “bastard developments.”