Teaching Resources > Quantitative Writing > Examples > Exploring an Architectural Remodel

Exploring an Architectural Remodel

This page authored by Baird Jarman, Carleton College
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This material was developed as part of the Carleton Teaching Activity Collection and is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


The goal of this assignment is to help students learn to interpret architectural drawings (especially plans but also sections and elevations), to practice analyzing three-dimensional architectural spaces, to understand how certain common and useful square footage measurements are calculated, and to suggest an appropriate reuse for a campus building based on space needs data and architectural form.

Learning Goals

diagram interpretation, measurement systems and scales, rudimentary technical drawing, data analysis, problem solving, group work

Context for Use

This assignment requires access to a particular building which has been remodeled with an extensive addition–as well as access to specific data about campus space needs. The assignment could be duplicated by substituting a different structure and set of data from another campus. In this manifestation this is a lengthy, multi-part project lasting several weeks, though variations of different parts of the assignment could easily be adapted as shorter assignments. I do not expect students to have any prior knowledge, but I do distribute those students with some experience looking at architectural plans amongst the different groups.

Description and Teaching Materials

I break my class into groups of three, making sure to spread out those students with some experience reading architectural plans. I tack up blueprints of the structure as it existed before the remodel along with an article about the building when it opened. I make 25-foot measuring tapes, large drawing paper, and rulers available to the students (I don't have access to a drafting table for them). Students are encouraged to check in with me and ask questions all along the way. Assignment Handout (Microsoft Word 648kB Sep19 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The groups need to report in to the teacher with updates to make certain that none of them leave too much of the work until it is too late to finish before the deadline.

Going over the different groups' projects requires a fair amount of class time.


The answers to specific questions can, of course, be checked and the square footage assessments can be compared to the actual data to see how carefully the measurements and calculations have been made. The drawing is judged for its success in recording the basic formal properties of the structure rather than any level of polish. The essay component is graded on the scope, accuracy, and persuasiveness of the argument (the class can also be asked to read and to rate all the proposals).

References and Resources

The blueprints that I use are in the Carleton College facilities archive and were created in 1948-49 by the firm of Magney, Tusler & Setter based in Minneapolis. The article mentioned in the assignment can be found in the November 1950 issue of The Architectural Record.