Use the Activities
Activity 1: Designing a Building
Activity 2: Form, Fantasy, and Design
In the 1920s and 1930s, such structures were a relatively common form of vernacular architecture. Most were constructed by their owners or by a local builder without the benefit of an architect. Some architects, in fact, dismissed the idea that a hamburger stand should look like a giant hamburger or a root-beer stand like a root-beer barrel. The general public, however, was enchanted by such structures.
Have students split into groups of four or five; each group redesigns a city block to include at least 10 buildings that are "ducks." These should include structures typically found in any city: a bank, a post office, a library, a barber shop, a restaurant, and clothing, furniture, drug, and toy stores. When each group has finished, tape the completed blocks together on the chalkboard. The class then votes on whether they would like to live in the city as it now exists or in the fantasy city they have created.
Activity 3: The Automobile and the Local Community
2. Do many people work and shop near where they live? Did their grandparents?
3. Are there old gas stations or automobile showrooms downtown? How are they now used?
4. How many parking lots or parking garages are there in a given neighborhood or business area? What kinds of businesses have been specifically designed for customers traveling by car?
5. Have any buildings in the area been torn down to build a highway?
6. What kinds of signs do they see along the streets and highways in their community? Have they been designed to be read by pedestrians or motorists?
Next, have students explore whether any examples of the types of fanciful vernacular architecture or public art studied in this lesson exist or ever existed in their community. If they do find examples, they should discover if efforts are being made to preserve these artifacts of the past. If there are, the students might help with such preservation efforts as a class project. If there are currently no preservation efforts, students could write letters to local public officials to discuss the importance of preserving these places.