Children, Architecture and the Urban Environment

Explore your local environment or house and street, or the university campus, or other environment, taking notes, taking photographs and/or making sketches.  Consider one building and all the planning that goes into its creation and construction. What does the external appearance of the building “say” about it? Does the form of the building suit its function (is it fit for purpose?) How well does it fit with its surroundings? What materials have been used, and why? Are there decorative elements to the building?

I have a window seat in my living room in my flat here in Dundee where I usually like to sit and
do my university work. As I was sitting today I noticed a building across from mine. It is a tenement block with its date from when it was built at the top (1902). I have always loved history so the date of this being built really let me think about its previous purpose and how different it is to now.

In the past, ovrcrowding in tenements was a huge issue. In 1900, 45% of Scottish people had at least 2 people living in one room (which was their whole “house”) while Dundee was significantly higher than the Scottish average with 72% of people having 2 people in one room. (Knox, no date, pp.2). This allows us to think about the buildings purpose in the past: people wanted to squeeze as many people as possible into one place.

In addition to this, overcrowding then caused a lot of significant health issues. This SCRAN article tells us that 44% of school children in Dundee had impaired hearing while 48% had poor eyesight. (Knox, no date, pp. 3). This is something that tells us how different these buildings are to now. Due to overcrowding it clearly led to extreme health issues.

The 1931 census showed that 50% of homes in Dundee had shared toilet facilities (Shelter Scotland, 2015). This shows, again, at the time how different the building will be to now as each flat will most definitely have its own toilet.

The materials used here could be rendered brick or concrete blocks (Dundee Civic Trust, 2016, pp.1). This article also states that flats made just after the war just 250 yards away on Glenagnes Road the tenements do have some local value as they are made from stone which was a different and new material to use in Dundee at the time.

From this research it allowed me to see that the purpose of this block of flats was slightly different to now. It shares the similarity that it provides a home for people. But previously, it was to provide housing for a large number of people in one building and the social and health issues this way of living caused.

The building fits in very well with its surroundings. The West End area of Dundee that I live in is mainly all of these 20th Century tenements so it blends in well.

I believe that looking at this building and finding some history on this building type is something I could definitely bring into an art lesson in the classroom and bring in some interdisciplinary learning through history and even drama. Many pupils in my class will live in these types of building and may not know much about its history or appreciate its architecture. It will allow some outdoor learning opportunities by allowing pupils to walk around and see the buildings and from this, an art lesson could be taught and let the pupils depict what they saw.

In my opinion this building fits in with its surroundings and is still fit for its purpose by providing a home for people. With Dundee being so up and coming, more modern architecture will be seen in the city but these historic homes will not be lost.



Dundee Civic Trust (2016) The Stone Tenements of Dundee Corporation. Available at: (Accessed on 17th September 2017).

Knox, W. (no date) A History of the Scottish People. Urban Housing in Scotland 1840-1940. Available at: (Accessed 17th September 2017).

Shelter Scotland (2015) Scotland’s Housing Crisis. Available at: (Accessed: 17th September 2017).


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