Home » follow the story » Riverbend Books + Cafe

Tagged Riverbend Books + Cafe

architecture and design for children


FINALLY! A class update!

Apologies for the delay in posts of late – so much work, so little time for sharing!

I’ve put together a series of collages of our recent 6-week series ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN FOR CHILDREN, hosted by the ever-wonderful Riverbend Books. Saturday afternoons have never been so messy or fun! We found it a wonderful way to wind down from a week of school and often a morning of sport, to be inspired and create in an open-ended class full of possibility!



We began our series with  a game of ‘guess the famous building’!

With outlandish and crumbling structures from around the world, we spent a lively discussion centred around the names of buildings, who designed them (if known!) and what new feat of engineering or materials did the work showcase – even the nicknames some of the ‘stand-out’ buildings have been given! Children were inspired and challenged to draw their favourite building by noticing the structural + decorative details of each unique building –  the outcomes were fantastic! The theme of ‘dreaming + drawing’ continued throughout our series, further inspired by the wonderful book ‘Iggy Peck Architect’. We focused in on the works of famous spanish architect ‘Antoni Gaudi‘ and we looked in detail at several of his nature-inspired marvels of design and architecture. In his own time Gaudi was both admired and criticised for the audacity and singularity of his innovative solutions – an inspiring study for children to dream big and create single-mindedly!

We worked on drawing a series of Gaudi-inspired finials in all their colourful glory!



In week 2 we began a two week study in clay. Continuing on with inspiration by Gaudi, students were encouraged to design and create clay ’tiles’ that reflect decorative ideas of their own imagination. We discussed the difference between structural beauty + decorative beauty. Many of the student’s tiles were inspired by nature – flowers, sunrise. We had a student focused on replicating some of the architectural detail of the famous buildings we were learning about and another who represented an angel in the night sky. Students were open to exploring the possibilities of their own unique inspiration and how that translated into their creations.



We continued in clay in week 3, however it was time to go from 2D work to 3D structure as we discussed structures around the world and why they suit the environment they are created for. We explored igloo’s to teepee’s, log cabins to mud huts and asked why each was suited to its environment? Students then began the challenge of creating their own clay structure – and most importantly, how to make it stand up!! Some designs replicated traditional buildings and cityscapes, such as this old english thatch building and cityscape with large fountain; some told a story about the people they were created for, such as this mud and grass hut.





In week 4 we took the design of buildings to the interior and touched on floor plans and elevations but mostly looked at the needs of people who occupy buildings and how that informs their design. We looked at famous interior paintings by Van Gogh and Matisse, and began our own ‘elevation’ drawings + paintings to complete an Eames-inspired ‘house of cards‘.



Week 5 saw us outlining our interior designs and then beginning the challenge of constructing a 3D card structure – yes that stands up!! Some chose traditional house forms but others created their own unique structures – one with a spider web on the roof and another made up of a series of triangular rooms – ‘because it would be fun to slide down the walls!’ All traditional house structures, students discovered, needed additional ‘reinforcing’ or cross bracing in order for their structure to stand up. This was a wonderful exercise in 3D construction with materials (unlike lego) that are not structurally stable in and of themselves. The challenge involved frustrations and then creative problem-solving!



In our final week, we did a quick re-cap on the way’s students were inspired by the world of Architecture and Design. This theme has opened up many possibilities for exploration and several students have been drawing + hunting down examples of interesting architecture + design as a result of this series.

Our last project in the series remained within the Interior and looked at inspiring Finnish design house, Marimekko. We talked about their ‘fearlessness’ and boldness in design, their creativity with colour! Each student was asked to design a Marimekko-inspired pillowcase, using either a simple stamping technique or by directly painting their design onto the fabric. Students learned much about the importance of simplicity in design, the beauty of ‘handmade’ when compared to ‘machine printed’ and then lastly, but most importantly, I saw each student unafraid to boldly create + execute their own unique designs! We had so much fun creating, I have no pics of their inspiring work!

Truly, the children participating in this 6-week series were a joy to teach – both in their enthusiasm to create and their willingness to listen, absorb information and be inspired! I look forward to offering several spin-off series that can explore each of the aspects of architecture + design that we briefly touched on in this series, in more detail!

We are offering this series in a condensed 4-week Thursday afternoon series at the newly opened ONEGIRLSTUDIO, Oxley Rd in Graceville next term! Bookings are already live on this site – if you are keen to join us but missed out on our Riverbend offering, please follow this link and book now!

mid-week creative :: turning the page on picture books

mid week creative picture books

Do you ever find yourself sitting on the library floor flipping through child-height boxes of picture books?  Or how often do you stop to linger in the children’s section in your favourite bookstore?  Maybe never. Maybe every Tuesday because Miss Four and Master One and a Half would like more books.  Or maybe you are drawn to these spaces often because you love picture books for what they mean to you (and not just your children).

I love how picture books can make me smile, they can make me think, they can make me teary and they can make me giggle.  The beautiful marriage that is words and pictures, bound together on pages, living forever after.  The wordplay, the concepts, the unspoken and the implied.  Pictures telling the story, words revealing the pictures, colour and light exposing emotions, .

When our family moved to Cambodia, it wasn’t clothes or household items which took most of the space in our bags.  It was books.  And because our girls were young, these were primarily picture books.  By the time we came to leave six years later we gifted our collection of dog-eared and much loved books to the library at our international school, wanting to share the joy they had given us with those who would come after us.

And now there sits upon our bookshelf four picture books, the four books we did bring back to Australia with us.  With girls who now choose to read chapter books, sadly our book-buying budget doesn’t stretch to pages with too many pictures.


These past few weeks Melissa and I have spent time researching and planning for our upcoming Autumn Adventures in Art workshop series, and one of our first jobs was to find books to launch our creative adventures.  We spent hours in two of our favourite book places (Riverbend Books + Café and Teenie & Tiny), searching for great picture books which would weave stories, concepts and art tecniques through our teaching.  I discovered authors new and illustrators quirky; art design surprising and typography bold.  I rediscovered what it is I love about children’s picture books – that they are not just for children.

As C.S. Lewis said “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Author and illustrator Shaun Tan [The Arrival, The Red Tree] explores this further:  “The simplicity of a picture book in terms of narrative structure, visual appeal and often fable-like brevity might seem to suggest that it is indeed ideally suited to a juvenile readership. It’s about showing and telling, a window for learning to ‘read’ in a broad sense, exploring relationships between words, pictures and the world we experience every day. But is this an activity that ends with childhood, when at some point we are sufficiently qualified to graduate from one medium to another? Simplicity certainly does not exclude sophistication or complexity; we inherently know that the truth is otherwise. “Art,” as Einstein reminds us, “is the expression of the most profound thoughts in the simplest way.”

Have you not picked up a picture book since you were a child?  Have you read ‘The Lorax’ so many times to your children you don’t need to bother looking at the words but your mind has been overexposed to its messages?  Have you only digested easy  fast-food versions rather than feasted on delicious, award-worthy picture books?

Why not take some time this week to stop by a bookstore, linger in a library or raid your nearest knee-high bookshelf.  And may you find pages that are worth turning, words that are worth pondering, and pictures that are worth seeing when you later close your eyes.

[Are you wondering what some of our favourite picture books are?  We’ll share some of them with you in the coming weeks.  In the meantime if you’re looking for a list of read-worthy picture books, look here and here.]