Connecting Frank Lloyd Wright to Marin Classrooms

Teaching by Design brings educational programming to grades 3-5

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 2.30.03 PMSan Rafael, CA – As the school year gets underway again, students and teachers in Marin County now have a fun way to explore the unique architectural heritage of the Marin County Civic Center and to inspire students to think critically about the designed world around them.

In honor of National Arts in Education Week (September 9-18), the Marin County Department of Cultural Services and the Marin Cultural Association have launched Teaching by Design: Connecting Frank Lloyd Wright to the Classroom to provide educational programming for local schools.

Teaching by Design has pre-visit and post-visit lesson plans for kids in grades 3-5 to supplement Frank Lloyd Wright-themed school tours of the Civic Center. The plans are based on Core Curriculum standards for English/language arts and science/engineering. The easy-to-implement hands-on projects focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) learning and underscore the Civic Center’s significance as Wright’s last designed building. Teachers are also offered a list of recommended resources about architecture and Wright.

“The Marin County Civic Center is a unique and historically significant building, yet many local schools and teachers are unaware of our existing tour offerings,” said Gabriella C. Calicchio, Director of Cultural Services. “As a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, the Civic Center offers a valuable entry point into STEAM education, which is a key element of a 21st century education. We hope by providing Core Curriculum-based lesson plans, a field trip to the Civic Center will become a ‘must-do’ for every teacher and student in the county.”

The downloadable lesson plans and recommended resources are available at under the Frank Lloyd Wright tab.

Cultural Services is committed to education and access and providing every student with the opportunity to benefit from its Frank Lloyd Wright school tours. The department offers a scholarship program for all Marin County Title I schools to ensure that under-resourced schools can take part in the tour experience.

The Civic Center was designed in 1957 and the Administration Wing was opened in 1962 on the site of the former Scettrini Ranch just north of downtown San Rafael. The connected and much larger Hall of Justice was opened in 1970. The Civic Center was one of the last major designs of Wright’s career – he died in 1959 – and his only realized project for a government entity. The Civic Center is a California State Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places

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Above Photos: Melanie Nathan©

The Civic Center’s innovative design simultaneously houses in one structure all the functions of county government and serves as a focal point for civic and cultural engagement. It dramatically illustrates the kinship of architecture to the surrounding landscape with long horizontal buildings that gracefully link the crowns of three hills. Wright boldly projected the main government building as a bridge joining one hill to the next with a series of graceful arches sheltered under barrel-vaulted roofs. Its forms and colors relate it to surrounding hills and to the mountains of the Coastal Range in the distance.

Widely considered to be the greatest American architect of the 20th century, Wright expressed organic architecture by integrating buildings with the natural world, melding form with space to create spatial drama. Inspired by nature and technology and seeking an alternative to European models, he used materials and structural forms in often new and innovative ways that relate to the geographically diverse United States.

Posted by Melanie Nathan

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