Urban planning and the nature of disasters
At this point, the focus moved away from using SimCity to looking at urban design, especially the development of the skyscraper. We began by reading about the Chicago Fire of 1871 in Jim Murphy's Newbury Honor Book, The Great Fire. Many SimCity mayors had experienced catastrophic fires themselves and were able to list the failures of the Chicago city government that made the disaster likely. This ability to analyze by making comparisons was almost personal empathy. Chicago's drama was meaningful to them. They had a sense of the magnitude of the loss to the degree that is reasonable for children.
Chicago's renaissance from the ashes as architects flocked to build the new city echoed students' own joy at their SimCity blocks filling with skyscrapers. They perused a number of city books in the Photographic Journey series by Crescent Books as well as Dupré's Skyscrapers. Each began to identify stylistic elements that appealed to them, getting to fairly specific details of outline, fenestration, and ground-floor details. The perennial favorite is the Associates Building in Chicago with its sliced roof line. The Erving SimCity pages have numerous excellent Internet links to the topics of skyscrapers and the Chicago Fire.
We also read A Skyscraper Story by Charlotte Wilcox and looked at Lewis Wicke Hine's historic photographs of the building of the Empire State Building. In a cursory way children examined the process of planning, budgeting, and constructing a building project of extraordinary magnitude.
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