Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Architecture and an art project

The Parthenon-

One of the most enduring images of Ancient Greece is the Parthenon.  High atop the acropolis of Athens (acropolis - acro= high area + polis= city), the beautiful ruins of the temple define the skyline.  It is considered one of the most perfect Doric temples ever built and even though it is partially in ruins, it is still amazing.  The temple was built in 447 BC - 438 BC and was built to honor the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. 

 What makes the temple so amazing are the subtle optical illusions used in order to make the temple appear perfect from every angle.  When you normally look up at a huge column, the top of the column appears smaller because it is further away, well the architects of the Parthenon made the tops of the columns wider than the bottoms to counteract this- pretty smart!!  I said before it was an example of "Doric" architecture and tried to sound like I knew what that meant :)  Well, I had to look it up and it mostly relates to the types of columns used.  Doric columns sit directly on the floor with no base, have 20 fluted grooves running the length, and have a large, square cap on the top.  Other columns, such as Ionic and Corinthian have different features.  Anyway, these "Doric" columns that surround the temple are still standing some 2,400 years later.  That's impressive, especially considering the wars, battles, and earthquakes it has seen!

The columns (Doric, you know) also held up some amazing artwork that was carved into the pediments (triangular ends of the roof) on both the west and east sides.  These were carved with stories depicting Athena, who was the goddess of many things, including wisdom, courage, law and war to name a few.  The East pediment tells the story of her birth.  It seems Zeus, her father, swallowed her mother (!) after he had made her pregnant because it was told that her children would be more powerful than their father.  He thought that was that, until one day he got a terrible headache.  He asked Hephaestus (god of fire and forging) to hit him on the head with his blacksmith hammer to take away the pain - guess he never heard of Tylenol!!  Anyway, when he got whacked in the head it split open and out popped Athena in full armor and all grown up.  Not sure what became of her poor mother.  And I thought delivering my kids was painful :)

The West pediment told the story that I mentioned in the intro to Greece post, the competition between Poseidon and Athena to see who could give the city the best gift.  Spoiler alert - Athena won by giving the people of Athens the olive tree.  Both of these pediments are destroyed unfortunately so we will never be able to see what was supposed to be some of the best sculptures of the period.

The Parthenon is old, the poor thing has been through a lot! In 1687, while it was being used as a mosque and an ammunition warehouse by the Ottoman Empire, it had a huge explosion that partially destroyed it.  These days, the toxic pollution levels in the air are eating away at the stone.  Restoration is ongoing to keep this amazing temple around for thousands of years to come. 

We love to build things.  Blocks are big in this house, so of course, we had to make our own little version of the Parthenon. We had to tweak the plans a little bit and, well, it's made of cardboard boxes and toilet paper tubes, but I think it turned out almost as impressive.

The Parthenon project (or Temple of TP)

For the project you will need:
  • empty toilet paper, paper towel or wrapping paper tubes.
  • boxes (shirt boxes worked great)
  • cardboard
  • white paint (I used spray paint because I don't have the patience to wait for things to dry)
1.  Put your largest shirt box down as base. 
2. Arrange the tp tubes around the base.  If you want to be truly Doric you will need some squares on top of the columns - we didn't go that extreme.
3. Put another shirt box on top of columns this is the roof. 
4. Bend a rectangular piece of flat cardboard in half lengthwise to make the peak of the roof and to hold the triangular pediments that go on the smaller sides of the temple.
5. Now take it all apart again and paint it white.  I didn't have you paint it white first because this way you'll know exactly what needs to be painted and you won't waste your time painting 20 tp tubes!
6. Let paint dry and then reconstruct.  I didn't use any glue or anything so that the kid could redesign the temple or use the boxes for different things
(my kids love boxes)
7.  My daughter wanted to make it a bit more colorful so she decorated it with stickers.  I especially love the pediments!  Polly Pocket and Iron Man played around as tourists for awhile and at the moment it is being used to play Angry Birds in Greece. 

I hope one day I can see the real Parthenon but until then I'll just have to settle for ours.  Hope you like it!!