Education:Skyscrapers as Reflections of Cultural values



9-12 Social Studies. This lesson can be used in a World History or Sociology Course.

Time Required for Completed Lesson

Three 60 minute periods


6.2.12.D.2.a ,c, d; 6.2.12.B.3.b; 6.2.12.C.3.d; 6.2.12.D.3.b; 6.2.12.D.4.k; 6.2.12.C.5.d, e; 6.2.12.B.6.a,.b, d

Common Core State Standards

RH.9-10.3.; RH.9-10.7; RH.11-12.7.


Computer, projector, smartboard or whiteboard, handouts, computer access for students

Anticipatory Set

Essential Question: How are the values and culture of a society embodied in its buildings? Ask students to think of some tall buildings they know. Describe the buildings and their purpose. What were they built for? Do they reflect in any way the values of the culture that built them? Are any of these buildings skyscrapers? What is a skyscraper?


  1. Students will view a power point of various building styles from early Romanesque through Gothic, Renaissance, Industrial Revolution to modern day skyscrapers throughout the world.
  2. Describe the technological innovations that enabled this development, for example: flying buttresses, thinner walls and larger windows, iron, steel, electricity, elevators, air conditioning.
  3. For each style ask students what were the important cultural values of the time and place, and how are they reflected in the buildings?
  4. Ask students to describe what they mean by the term skyscraper. Arrive at a class definition.
  5. Trace the development of these “skyscrapers” throughout the world. Why did the path of developments develop along the geographical lines it did?—cultural/technological development from 1st world to 3rd world
  6. Class discussion: What do these buildings reflect about the culture of the people who build them? Possible answers include technological advancement, religion, finance, government.
  7. Working in groups, students will have two days to first determine a list of values for their own ideal modern society and then design their own cityscapes and/or skyscrapers to reflect their vision for society. They may draw or use computers.


The project can be broken down into manageable goals for each class period; students can also work closely with a teacher to be sure they are on task; the paper can also be submitted digitally if necessary. Instructions will be given orally and in writing.


Student responses during class discussion. Students will turn in their list of values and proposed cityscapes, and will be asked to write 1-2 paragraphs explaining how their cityscapes reflected the values they expressed, and what technological innovations were necessary for their designs.


technology, history, sociology, language arts, computer graphics, art/art history


Groups will share their designs and explain how they reflect their societal values and what technological innovations were necessary for their designs.


Power Point presentation, worksheet


Submitted by: Tobi Berk Arias, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North