Children Attach Magnets to SoHo Cast Iron Façades


Participants explore cast iron architecture around town and at the Center.

Inge Hoonte, Patrick Candalla

On 11.14.09 a group of 72 children and adults transformed the streets of SoHo into an architectural playground. Participants of the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Family Day, “Cast Iron Architecture in SoHo,” followed Design Educator Catherine Teegarden from LaGuardia Place to Houston St., Greene St., Prince St., and West Broadway. Along the way, children tried to stick magnets to façades to identify prefabricated cast iron plates.

Attendees learned about the general history and usage of iron in the local architectural landscape of the late 1900s. Teegarden pointed out that glass embedded in iron grates in the sidewalk allow light into basements that historically would otherwise have been dark. Children practiced reading a building by looking at the common rhythm of repeating columns and beams as well as decorative details, which the kids compared to sprinkles on a cupcake.

Upon returning to the Center participants used their newfound knowledge from the street to construct paper façades. They started with a base of horizontal and vertical strips of colored paper echoing the columns and beams that had just observed, then used beads, wooden dots, and fabric rosettes for ornament. One participant drew furniture behind a pop-up screen. Another added narrow strips of bright paper onto a darker shade to replicate a column’s shadow.

The Center for Architecture Foundation presents Family Day programs on the second Saturday of each month. These workshops are designed for children ages five to 13 and their adult companions to work together on a hands-on activity. The next Family Day will explore the role of light in architecture and design. Participants will investigate the traditions of cultures from around the world that celebrate light as well as innovative lighting design strategies. Families will then create their own light fixture to take home. This annual event is sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society of NY (IESNY).