Ted's teaching tips

14th July 2000 at 01:00
Two opening questions: do you recognise this building and how was this funny picture taken? The famous palace portrayed in such an unusual way raises questions about the royal family, architecture and privilege.

Photographs How can photographs tell a lie (distortion; use of different lenses and angles to make things seem near, far, large, small; retouching to erase wrinkles, remove a person or object; computer can change colour, shape, composition, or superimpose images). How was this picture composed (contact sheet - whole roll of film taken and then printed together)? What are the different effects of photos in colour and those in black and white (black and white emphasises texture and faces)? What sort of photographs do you keep at home - people, events, holidays, birthday parties, babies - and why? Try the contact sheet approach to your school, or another scene, or a face.


What is cubism (art movement around 1910, led by painters such as Picasso, Braque and Robert Delaunay, whose work inspired this picture, which broke away from traditional figurative art)? What are its characteristics (breaking up people or objects, often showing several sides at once, straight lines instead of curves or irregular shapes)? Look at cubist art and paint a picture, real life or abstract, in similar style. Does it make you look afresh at the familiar?


Buckingham Palace is an 18th-century construction, but what do the pillars remind you of (classical Greek and Roman buildings)? Do you know of any other 18th-cntury or neo-classical buildings nearby (eg Palladian-style country houses or buildings)? How did cubism affect architecture (some architects, such as Le Corbusier, reacted against its abstract form, but adopted its straight lines and geometric shapes)?


Write some speech bubbles coming out of the windows ("I feel seasick", "Help! My bed's sliding away").


It has been suggested that the royal family quit Buckingham Palace and other royal residences. Should they stay, or move somewhere less grand?


The palaces are big, but they have to house many people who work for the royal family. They are also used to entertain foreign dignitaries. If everyone could visit them, the palaces would lose their magic and appeal, and we would still have to pay for their upkeep. Many people attend garden parties, and investitures at royal palaces, and the public has access to the Queen's paintings. Historic buildings are irreparably damaged by high-volume public use.


It is a waste of public money to have splendid buildings that the taxpayers, who pay for them, cannot visit. You can look round the former royal palaces of Versailles outside Paris and Schonbrunn in Vienna, but Buckingham Palace is only open eight weeks of the year. Palaces are relics of an age when monarchs were all-powerful, but there is no place for them now. They should be turned into fine museums, art galleries or cultural centres.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

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