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Architecture in relief.

The intellectual and social history of any civilization is reflected in the buildings and works of art it produces. The introductory statement for this project was, "Look at prints and slides of architectural styles around the world from various cultures."


(1) To create a visual image that does not resemble architecture yet is inspired by architecture. (2) To appreciate the shapes and forms which make up a piece of architecture, and gain insight into the culture which created it.


Once the students have studied architectural styles and made an analysis of shapes to use in their relief sculpture, they were provided with the following materials:

* oaktag

* scissors and stencil knife

* balsa wood

* dowel rods

* interesting upholstery nails,etc.

* sandpaper

* wood glue (quick setting)

* background panel board

* spray paint

Background Information

In the past, sculptural reliefs have usually been related to an architectural setting. Sculptors were commissioned or assigned to create a work for a predetermined spot and it would have to fit in appearance and spirit. To give students a better understanding of relief sculpture, we discussed and analyzed three sculptors who work in the relief style.

Hans Arp shares the Dada faith in inspiration and accident. His forms are free and each one is unique. He follows no laws or rules in planning and relies only upon chance or sudden discovery.

Louise Nevelson's work is framed in a box and is composed of harmoniously overlapping curvilinear and straight forms. The cast off bits of carpentry which she uses have certain aesthetic qualities which are pleasing to the eye. Color and shape are effective components bound together to create a muted composition.

The work of Ben Nicholson is carefully deliberated. His work is founded on precise planning and a very conscious control of a small number of pure forms.

Creating the Sculpture

The objective has been clarified by an explanation of the project, the materials to be used are on hand, and the works of three different sculptors have been analyzed and discussed. After a study of various architectural styles, the students picked elements from the style of their choice and sketched them. After making many rough drafts, the most interesting shapes were cut out of oaktag.

Before cutting the shapes out of balsa, compositions were created with the oaktag cutouts. Students examined the work of their peers and offered suggestions and critiques. The shapes were transferred to balsa wood and cut and sanded for the final arrangement. Decorations of washers, nails, etc. could be added where needed. After elements were glued into place, students had a choice of several spray paint colors.

SAFETY PRECAUTION: Do not spray in the room. Use a spray booth or spray outdoors. Do not inhale the spray.


Over the course of this project, I utilized terms pertaining to sculpture and architecture in class discussions. The following is a partial list of these terms.

plan opposition expand repetition divide continuity subordinate closed area dominance open area color overlay texture discover additive draw subtractive trace touch cut distort carve harmony file balance sand unity


Once the project was completed and the work was displayed, students wrote short critiques about the work and rated it on a one to five scale. Terms from the vocabulary list had to be used in the critiques, and ratings were based on the material discussed in class.

Anthony Haruch is an art education consultant and Deborah LeVan is the District Art Chair/art teacher, Mahopac High School, Mahopac, New York.
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Title Annotation:art project in relief sculpture
Author:LeVan, Deborah
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1992
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