Teachers' resource: Explore pattern through the V&A and RIBA Architecture collections

Topographical drawing of the mausoleum of Itimâd-ud-Daulâ, Agra, India, about 1830. RIBA No. SB78/7(3)

Topographical drawing of the mausoleum of Itimâd-ud-Daulâ, Agra, India, about 1830. RIBA No. SB78/7(3)

Key Stage 3-4 Design & Technology
Key Stage 3-4 Art & Design

It was fun and will help us with our design work. Looking at the old drawings helped me understand more about patterns'.
Student

This resource provides an innovative approach to teaching pattern and design. Explore the outstanding V&A and RIBA architecture collections and the decorative V&A building with students to discover how patterns are used in architecture and interior design. Investigate how pattern motifs can reflect different cultural values and identity. Give students an exciting design brief to create their own pattern designs, inspired by their research.

Learning objectives and Curriculum links

This resource enables students to:

  • Research pattern design and discover how it is used by architects and designers
  • Investigate designs from a range of cultures
  • Understand a range of basic principles for pattern making
  • Develop high quality and imaginative pattern designs
  • Develop thinking and critical evaluation skills that can be applied to any design project
Pattern design by year 8 student inspired by objects and designs in the Nehru and Jameel Galleries

Pattern design by year 8 student inspired by objects and designs in the Nehru and Jameel Galleries

Curriculum links

Key Stage 3 Art & Design Programmes of Study

Key Concepts

  • 1.3a - Engaging with a range of images and artefacts from different contexts, recognising the varied characteristics of different cultures and using them to inform their creating and making.
  • 1.3b - Understanding the role of the artist, craftsperson and designer in a range of cultures, times and contexts.
  • 1.4b - Engaging with ideas, images and artefacts, and identifying how values and meanings are conveyed.

Key Processes

  • 2.1a - Develop ideas and intentions by working from first-hand observation, experience, inspiration, imagination and other sources.
  • 2.1e - Explore and develop ideas using sketchbooks, journals and other appropriate strategies.
  • 2.2a - Use research and investigative skills appropriate to art, craft and design.
  • 2.2b - Appreciate how codes and conventions are used to convey ideas and meanings in and between different cultures and contexts.

Range and content

  • 3c - Study of a range of artefacts from contemporary, historical, personal and cultural contexts.

Key Stage 3 Design & Technology Programmes of Study

Key Concepts

  • 1.4a - Analysing existing products and solutions to inform designing and making.

Key Processes

  • 2d - Use their understanding of others’ designing to inform their own.

Key Stage 4 Art & Design GCSE coursework assessment objectives

  • Engage with art forms from different times and cultures.
  • Develop artistic skills, knowledge and understanding.
  • Understand the arts in context.
  • Record ideas and designs from a range of objects and artefacts.
  • Explore the work of other designers and architects and develop ideas.

Key Stage 4 Design & Technology GCSE coursework assessment objectives

  • Develop thinking and critical evaluation skills to determine appropriate methods and approaches.
  • Be able to demonstrate these skills in a design and technology project.
Design for wallpaper, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, 1906-7. RIBA No. SB118/VOY 722

Design for wallpaper, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, 1906-7. RIBA No. SB118/VOY 722

Before your visit

Plan the scheme of work

Exploring Pattern can be used to inspire a range of different art and design assignments and is ideal as a starting point for a textile design project.

Choose a brief, introduce the project and schedule a visit to the V&A. At the Museum students will be able to view original designs and architectural sketches, notebooks and models. Students can make drawings and take notes or photographs to inspire and inform their own designs.

Find a suggested schedule for your Museum visit, gallery worksheets and teacher’s notes to download below.

The V&A can also be explored online if a visit to the museum is not possible – see More Information & Resources below for web links. Use the suggested activities outlined below as warm-up exercises and initial background research or following a visit to contextualize research carried out at the Museum.

Student developing pattern motifs based on the details and shapes they had recorded in the Museum

Student developing pattern motifs based on the details and shapes they had recorded in the Museum

Brief students

Give your students a design brief to work from and explain that they will be visiting the Museum (or looking at the V&A collections online) to learn more about pattern design and find inspiration for their own work.

Here are some suggested briefs:

  • Design a repeat pattern for a textile, wallpaper or ceramic tile inspired by pattern at the V&A.
  • Design a repeat pattern that reflects the identity of your school, or the identity of your local area (e.g. it could include buildings, colours, shapes or materials that you see around you).
  • Design a pattern to decorate and transform the exterior of a local building such as a school, library, town hall, swimming pool or leisure centre. Your pattern could reflect the purpose, location or users of the building. Take a photograph of the building and use Photoshop to add your pattern to it.

Introduce Designing Pattern

Use this power-point presentation to introduce your students to key concepts and ideas related to pattern making. They will learn how to recognise the difference between decorative and structural pattern designs in architecture. Detailed teacher's notes are included in the presentation and can be viewed below each slide on your computer.  Download additional information below to help familiarise yourself with the subject.

Download: Designing Pattern presentation (PPT file, 29.1 MB)

For useful links and references go to More Information & Resources

School/College based projects

Explore pattern design in your local area or online

  • Look at drawings in the online Designing Pattern Study Room Resource Box. Ask students to identify rotating, reflecting and tessellating designs. Encourage them to think about questions such as: what shapes and motifs have been used to create the patterns? Could they create alternative designs for the same buildings?

Explore: Designing pattern Study Room resource box

Download: Designing pattern Study Room resource box - teachers' notes (PDF file, 493 KB)

  • Use the RIBA’s online digital image library to discover a range of patterns in buildings from different areas of the world. The ‘subject search’ will find examples of structural and decorative pattern designs. Ask students to identify different types of patterns: rotating, reflecting or tessellating.

Visit: RIBA's online digital image library

  • Ask students to record examples of pattern design in the school buildings or their local area through photographs, drawings and rubbings. Try to identify the types of patterns and the repeating shapes or motifs used to make them. Ask them to consider what these patterns convey about the history or character of the local area.
  • Make pattern sketchbooks or travel journals. Ask students to map their journey to and around school or the V&A, recording all the different patterns they see and describing where they have seen them.
Start a Flickr page

Why not start a gallery Flickr page and upload your students' designs? Email schools@vam.ac.uk with a link to your page too.

Students exploring pattern through the V&A and RIBA collections

Students exploring pattern through the V&A and RIBA collections

Visiting the Museum

Visit the V&A to discover how architects use pattern in their designs. Explore the richly decorated surfaces of the building, objects on display and original designs in the Architecture Gallery, the Jameel and Nehru Galleries of Islamic and South Asian art, and Prints & Drawings Study Room.

Booking your visit

All school visits must be pre-booked via the bookings office on +44 (0)20 7942 2211. When you call, book a time slot to take your groups to the Prints & Drawings Study Room and book the RIBA Designing Pattern Resource Box and V&A Owen Jones Grammar of Ornament Study Room Resource.

View: School booking instructions online

Prepare for your visit
Make use of the introductory activities and powerpoint outlined above. View more information about the galleries below and download teacher’s notes to use in the Prints & Drawings Study Room.

Explore: Designing pattern Study Room resource box

Download: Designing pattern Study Room resource box - teachers' notes (PDF file, 493 KB)

Download: Designing pattern Study Room research sheet ( PDF file, 167 KB)

Read: Owen Jones’ The Grammar of Ornament

Download Worksheets
Here are some suggested worksheets you can use in the Museum. Please download and print copies for your students before your visit.

Download: Designing pattern museum activities (PDF file, 380 KB)

Be aware of V&A regulations
No wet materials or charcoal may be used in the galleries and only pencils may be used in the Prints and Drawings Study Room. Photography is permitted in all areas of the museum, except the Prints and Drawings Study Room, the Raphael Gallery, Jewellery Gallery and special exhibitions. No bags can be taken into the Prints & Drawings Study Room and must be left in lockers in the Sackler Centre.

Student exploring pattern in the Museum

Student exploring pattern in the Museum

Areas to visit

Prints & Drawings Study Room
View the Designing Pattern resource box, which contains drawings from the RIBA’s Architecture collections ranging in date from the 1830s to the 1940s. These include drawings of Classical and Egyptian Revival buildings, Indian monuments and plans for modern buildings. They explore structural and decorative pattern designs in building. Some of the buildings were built, other designs were simply filed away. There are over 1.5 million architectural drawings in the V&A and RIBA Architecture collections, this selection is a small sample. You can view the images online below.

You can also book the Owen Jones Grammar of Ornament Resource Box. This contains a selection of original Plates by architect and designer Owen Jones in which he recorded pattern and ornament from other cultures in order to inspire his own and other architects’ and designers’ work.

Jameel and Nehru Galleries
In the Jameel Gallery and the Nehru Gallery explore Indian and Islamic patterns, geometric designs and motifs. Highlights include intricately carved marble screen windows and architectural features from a mosque.

RIBA Architecture Gallery
There are over 400 architectural models in the V&A and RIBA collections of which 55 are displayed in the Architecture gallery. Many of the models show how architects use patterns in building, decoratively and structurally. They represent different types of buildings and styles of architecture, including: Classical and Classical Revival; Gothic and Gothic Revival; East Asian; South Asian and Spanish Islamic; Modern; High-Tech; Postmodern.

V&A building
Explore the V&A building. You could start with the extravagant Ceramics Staircase and nearby Silver Galleries, or go outside into the central John Madjeski Garden. You will find many examples of structural and decorative patterns on ceilings, floors, windows, walls, seats, doorways, lighting, signage and columns or arches. Record inspiring objects or details in photographs or drawings.

Other areas of the V&A
There are over one million architectural fragments on display across the V&A. They may demonstrate a particular design style, practice, culture or technique, or provide a record of a special or lost building. They include a range of objects, from stone capitals, mosaic friezes, gates, grilles and columns to linen-fold panelling and statues. Visit these galleries to search for inspiring patterns, shapes and architectural details. Use them in the pattern designs you create back at school.

Ironwork Galleries, Rooms 113-114e
British Galleries, Rooms 52-58, 118-125
Cast Courts, Rooms 46 and 46a

Designs for ornamental roof tiles, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, about 1930. RIBA No. PB371/66 (1)

Designs for ornamental roof tiles, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, about 1930. RIBA No. PB371/66 (1)

Planning your visit

Here's a suggested timetable for the day:

10:00– 10:15
Arrive at the Sackler Centre by 10:15. Your activities will take place around the Museum. Up to 15 students may visit the Prints and Drawings Study Room at any one time. Larger groups will need to divide and rotate between the study room and gallery activities.

10.30–11:30 and 11:30–12:30
Rotate groups between The Jameel and The Nehru Galleries, and the Prints and Drawings Study Room (Level 4 Henry Cole Wing, access via the Sackler Centre). You will need 40 minutes minimum at each location and around 15 minutes to swap the groups over.

12:30–13:00
Take students with packed lunches to the Lunchroom in the Sackler Centre

13:00–14:00
Divide your group up into smaller groups of 5 - 7 students if possible to explore the RIBA Architecture gallery and the V&A building.

Case Studies

Here are examples of work made by Design & Technology students who used the V&A and RIBA Exploring Pattern resource. Both projects illustrated show designs created during an afternoon workshop at the Museum. The Exploring Pattern resource can also be used as a starting point for extended D&T projects.

Download Case study: V&A and RIBA exploring patterns resource (PDF file, 98 KB)

Plate IV - Egyptian Ornament No.3 from the series Grammar of Ornament, Owen Jones, 19th century. Museum no. 1579

Plate IV - Egyptian Ornament No.3 from the series Grammar of Ornament, Owen Jones, 19th century. Museum no. 1579

More Information & Resources

Use these resources to support the development of projects

  • RIBA Collections
    Download images from RIBA's extensive online database. Search using keywords, e.g. sketch, plan, elevation, section, perspective, isometric, detail, name of architect, name of designer.
  • Search the Collections
    Find more information about the V&A and RIBA architecture collections
  • V&A Architecture Gallery
    Discover more about the objects on display in the V&A Architecture Gallery
  • The V&A Building
    Learn more about the period features, styles and history of the spectacular V&A building
  • Owen Jones
    Information about Owen Jones
  • The John Madejski Garden
    Information about the John Madejski Garden
  • Islamic Middle East
    Information about furniture, objects and textiles from the Islamic Middle East on display at the V&A
  • South Asia
    Information about objects, furniture and textiles from South Asia on display at the V&A
  • Pattern: A Study Room resource
    Explore designs for wallpaper and textiles by designers from 1868 to 1978.
  • Wallpaper resource
    Find out about the history of wallpaper and explore wallpaper designs
  • Block-Printed Wallpaper
    View a video of William Morris wall-paper being block-printed
  • Design a Tile
    Use this resource to design your own Arts and Crafts tile
  • A Style History of Britain
    Find out more about different styles through objects in the British Galleries
  • The Adam Interior
    View a video of the Adam Interior in the British Galleries

Private Group Tours & Talks

We offer a wide range of tours to meet your group requirements. Whether a group has a special area of interest, wishes to explore a particular gallery or just get an overview of the Museum's collection the Groups Team can help.

View our Private Group Tours & Talks

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