A Butterfly’s Perspective

Lesson Plan


Children will examine images of traditional buildings and compare them to what they see in the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. They will then imagine they are butterflies flitting about the Frederic C. Hamilton Building and describe differences they notice.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 20 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • use a wide variety of words to describe what they see; and
  • use their imaginations.


  1. Preparation: Read the “Details” section of About the Art.
  2. Warm-up: Show children pictures of traditional buildings they might see often, such as houses, skyscrapers, stores, etc. Google Images is a good resource for pictures. Ask them to go around the room and find classroom objects that remind them of these types of structures. Have them explain to you why they chose the objects they did.
  3. Next, show them the image of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. Give them a little extra time to find objects in the room that resemble parts of the building. Allow them to touch the different objects and give you words to describe what they see and feel. Guide them to talk about the sharp angles and pointy shapes.
  4. Beforehand, set up sharp angles in your room using large sheets of folded paper or cardboard. After looking at the outside of the building, tell them that they are now going to imagine that they are butterflies flying around the inside of the building. Let the children fly around the sharp corners and shapes you have made for a little while, imagining that they are spaces inside the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. Remind them that they are tiny butterflies.
  5. Ask students to tell you words and phrases they would use to describe what it felt like going into the sharp corners, having to crouch down versus stand up, etc.
  6. Select some of the words to craft a few poems to read to the children either that day or the next.


  • Large sheets of folded paper or cardboard that mimic the sharp angles in the building, placed around the room
  • Paper and pen or pencil
  • About the Art section on the Frederic C. Hamilton Building
  • Color copies of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building for children to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Frederic C. Hamilton Building

Frederic C. Hamilton Building


Daniel Libeskind and Davis Partnership Architects, United States

Who Made It?

Architect Daniel Libeskind worked with Denver-based Davis Partnership Architects to design the Denver Art Museum’s Frederic C. Hamilton Building.

Libeskind was born in Poland in 1946, the son of two Holocaust survivors. At the age of eleven, he immigrated to Israel with his parents, where his family lived for two years before they left for New York. Libeskind was one of the last immigrants to arrive by boat through Ellis Island and he became an American citizen in 1965.

As a child Libeskind was a musical prodigy, winning international competitions with his performances on the accordion. He left music to study architecture at New York’s Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, followed by graduate work at Essex University in England. He went on to work as a professor and theorist before completing his first commission, Berlin’s Jewish Museum, at the age of fifty-two.

The Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building is Libeskind’s first completed building in the United States. He was also chosen as the master plan architect for the World Trade Center site in New York City.

What Inspired It?

In 1999, museum director Lewis Sharp and then-mayor Wellington Webb decided it was time for the museum to expand. A new building would allow the DAM to display more of its world-class collection and provide the space needed to host major traveling exhibitions.

With the Hamilton Building, Daniel Libeskind continued a tradition of bold architecture that began with Gio Ponti’s North Building. Libeskind tells us that he was inspired by the “craggy cliffs of the Rockies” and by his experiences in Denver. He describes Denver as “a dynamic place, the people are dynamic. And that is part of the composition of the building.” The lively architecture signals to the public that new things are going on inside; the experience begins before one even enters the DAM.



Libeskind chose to complement Gio Ponti’s million gray glass tiles of the North Building by selecting another reflective and unusual material: 9,000 titanium panels. Libeskind said, “We had an aim from the beginning: a building that is luminous.” The Hamilton Building’s different sides reflect light at different angles, and thus appear to be different shades of gray. The titanium also reflects varying colors throughout the day. It often appears more rosy in the early morning hours and golden at sunset, depending on the weather.

Fun Fact: 9,000 titanium panels cover the building’s surface.

The Prow
The Prow

The tip of the building, which we call the “prow,” makes a reaching gesture across 13th Avenue toward the North Building and Civic Center. The angled walls of the prow, and the many other angled walls that shape the building, are reflected inside and create unique interior spaces. These dramatic spaces have provided new opportunities for innovative displays of artwork.

The Atrium
The Atrium

Libeskind spoke of the atrium as an introduction to the visitor’s experience of the building: “The first sounds, the atmosphere, the connectivity with that atmosphere—the mood is set. And I think it’s proper that an atrium should set those moods because that’s where you quite literally enter, get informed, get ready for an adventure with art.” The walls and ceiling of the atrium create a variety of shaped spaces, making it one of the most dramatic spaces in the building.

How Does the Building Stay Up?
How Does the Building Stay Up?

The building is essentially a giant truss, meaning its steel frame is a balanced network of interlocking triangles. After all the steel beams are set in place, the building holds itself up and transfers weight to “anchors” of concrete pillars that reach down into bedrock. Libeskind described the building as a tree, branching out from these anchoring “roots.”

Fun Fact: 2,750 tons of steel and 50,000 steel bolts were used in the Hamilton Building.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.