Inspirational Architecture

Artists Elsie Driggs and Joseph Stella were (respectively) inspired by steel mills in Pittsburgh and the Brooklyn Bridge—both architectural structures that were built for specific purposes and had particular effects on their surroundings. Ask your students to compare and discuss the paintings. How do the artists represent these structures? Why do students think the artists chose to paint these structures? Which parts were they most drawn to? What shapes, lines, and colors did they use to represent these parts?

a. Ask your students to take photographs or make drawings of a building or architectural structure that they admire in their city, town, or neighborhood. For example, a public building, a skyscraper, a bridge, a factory, or a house. If possible, have students research their selected site, including its history and original purpose.

b. Ask students to present and discuss their photographs, drawings, and findings. What did students choose to depict? Why? What did they discover about their selected sites? What are these buildings or structures used for today? What effect do they have on their surroundings? On people?

Joseph Stella (1877–1946), <em>The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme</em>, 1939. Oil on canvas. 70 1/4 × 42 3/16 in. (178.4 × 107.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase 42.15 © artist or artist’s estate

Close up view of smokestacks

Elsie Driggs (1895-1992), Pittsburgh, 1927. Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 × 40 1/4in. (87 × 102.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.177 © Estate of Elsie Driggs