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up my brothers and sister and I would spend hours playing architect. We designed floor plans for our dream homes (including pools in our basement, giant walk-in closets, and lofts in our bedrooms (mine was a reading nook/library, my brothers both had dreams of gaming and displaying their various collections and my sister always kept hers a secret—probably her plans to take over the world.)
I never followed that dream to fruition but I have a fascination with design and architecture to this day. I love to walk through model homes and critique the layouts and use of space. I’ve taken architecture tours in various cities around the world marveling at the things humans can imagine and create. I’m featuring two of those remarkable creators today.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines
Written by: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrated by: Dow Phumiruk
Number of Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-9
Maya had always been fascinated and surrounded by art. As an architectural student she entered a contest to design a new memorial honoring the soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. Her idea was chosen but she received much ridicule for being so young, being a girl, being an amateur. But she refused to back down and was rewarded with seeing her work come to life (and be greatly honored and respected by all who see it.) She continued to design works of art and architecture, combining the two with an element of interaction inviting people to not only look but touch, walk around, sit by and be a part of it.
I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for many years and visited the “Wall” often. It’s an incredible experience to see and trace the names etched in the stone and see it stretching out almost eternally in both directions. It’s an amazing piece and I was inspired to learn it was created by a young girl with a dream! For a little more information there’s also an author’s note that gives a bit more background on the monument and what it represents.
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
Written and Illustrated by: Jeanette Winter
Number of Pages: 56
Age Range: 4-9
Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad. She was able to study architecture in London but as a Muslim woman she faced more obstacles than most. Her designs were revolutionary, based on patterns, colors, textures she observed in nature and the world around her from waving grasses, windswept dunes, wandering rivers, shells and cocoons. Her non-linear designs (and thinking) won her awards and respect in a male-dominated field.
I’d never heard Hadid’s name before but looking at the final spread of the book showing many of her designs I recognized her work. She has a fantastical touch, many of her buildings looking like they shouldn’t be able to stand or should be gracing the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Because of her background as both a woman and a Muslim I’m dying to know more about how she made it. The book gives an overview appropriate for young readers and they’ll be fascinated by the illustrations of her buildings and older readers will appreciate the direct quotes from Hadid, and additional information in the back matter.
I’ve mentioned a million times how much I appreciate a great biography about a little known person and both of these books are fantastic examples; fascinating women, well-presented, and oh, how I love in-depth, useful back matter! Give these to the Lego/drawing/art obsessed girls in your life and watch their imaginations take flight!