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Susan O'Rourke | February 15, 2023

city skyline on blue background

As 2023 takes shape, consider bringing global perspectives into lessons on geometry by studying architecture! As you teach students to measure angles, calculate area, and use rigid transformations, consider bringing in a real-world reference from buildings from around the globe. For example, students might enjoy searching for acute, obtuse, and right angles in the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, a city in southwestern Germany or identifying “radial symmetry, reflection symmetry and repetition” in the design of the Temple at Borobudar in Java, Indonesia; the Jumeirah Islands in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; the Plaza del Ejecutivo in Mexico City, Mexico; or Brøndby Haveby, Denmark. Younger students learning the basics of geometry through cardboard brick, legos, and pattern blocks may consider different styles of buildings and homes from across the globe. They may line up pattern blocks with the triangular façade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong or the Centre International du Commerce Exterieur du Senegal, or CICES in Dakar, Senegal. In fact, showcasing these modern and contemporary buildings can help broaden students’ awareness of other cultures and fight stereotypes about how people around the globe live and work. In an article for The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright emphasizes how examining a “volume of Sub-Saharan Africa, a massive architectural guide” illuminates the diversity and richness of cultures in the region. He shares: 

Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai, co-editors of the guide, write of how, on the one hand, ‘glossy magazines featuring Africa normally show safari lodges with pseudo-ethnic architecture, or fancy resorts located on expanses of long sandy beaches’ or, on the other, ‘reports on over-population and lack of education and healthcare.’ But there is hardly any reporting on everyday architecture, offering a ‘real’ picture of African cities. While by no means comprehensive, the guide aims to fill part of that void, combining descriptions of historic, vernacular and contemporary buildings, considering them against the background of race, gender and power, be it colonial, neocolonial or local.” 

While the co-editors spoke specifically to Sub-Saharan Africa, they speak to the power of diverse cultural examples in providing a window into the lived experiences of people from around the globe. By incorporating a few examples of global architecture into lessons, educators can spark students’ curiosity in learning more about the significance of the landmark, why it was created, and even how it fits into the history of the region. One example can provide a foundation for future learning! 

Check out the additional resources that examine global architecture: