African American Architects

Lesson adapted from Susan Riley’s Lesson Seeds, EducationCloset

Key Vocabulary

  • Architect
  • Floor Plan




Students will learn about the buildings designed by famous African American architects, and the significance of their achievements considering the era in which they lived. Students will design a floor plan layout of a building of their choice, and use their knowledge of area of rectangles to calculate the square footage of rooms and objects.


Recognize area as additive. Find areas of rectilinear figures by decomposing them into non-overlapping rectangles and adding the areas of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems.

Apply knowledge of available resources, tools, and technologies to investigate personal ideas through the art-making process.


Show students images of Villa Lewaro, designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy. Using artful thinking, analyze the components of Madame Walker’s home. Share information on Tandy and other African American Architects (see resources). Make sure to discuss what an architect does, and the significance of the African American architects’ achievements considering the era in which they lived.


Step 01

Introduce floor plan examples to students, pointing out the scale it is drawn in, common symbols used, and considerations in the layout concerning doors, windows, lights, etc. (See Villa Lewaro Floor plan)

Step 02

Measure the area of each rectangular room on the floor plans, and explore how the shapes of the rooms are used in both overlapping and non-overlapping ways.

Step 03

Once students have basic knowledge of what a floor plan looks like, demonstrate how to create one using a roll of grid paper.

Step 04

First, explain your scale. For this example, we are using 1 inch ruled grid paper, where each 1 inch square=1 square foot.

Step 05

Model how to use a ruler to draw walls, doorways, and windows, etc. Also demonstrate drawing a line through the middle of a square to represent 1⁄2 foot increments.

Step 06

After you have a few rooms on your example floor plan drawn, ask students to help you calculate and label the area of each room. Ensure students recognize multiplying the width by the length of the walls will give them the same number as counting the full squares within the walls bounds. This is also a great opportunity to explain why we use square units when measuring area.

Step 07

Remind students of a couple strategies for finding the area of rooms or objects that are not perfectly square. Either counting squares, breaking up into rectangles, or adding up halves to make whole numbers, etc.

Step 08

Allow students to create their own floor plans, calculate, and label the area of each room.


Assess student blueprints for accurate square footage calculations, and appropriate room sizes.

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