This paper investigates the characteristics through which the child develops a capacity for identifying buildings with institutional functions. In particular investigates the use and modification of criterial (AC), functional (AF) and descriptive (AD) factors. Two situations have been considered: the identification of a specific and known building, and a prototypical one, the buildings being a church and a bank. The sample is composed by 792 Italian children aged from 4 to 11 years. The subjects were first required to draw a church/ a church they knew, and then similarly a bank. They were then required to say which particular feature of the drawn building identified it as a church/bank. Results indicate that the chosen indicators change with age: while descriptive elements prevail at age 4-5, criterial ones prevail at age 10-11. When a distinction between the prototypical and the specific building is taken into account, we observe a different result for each of the two buildings: for the church the subjects distinguish the two different aspects from age 8-9, while with the bank this only appears at 10-11 years. These results are discussed from the viewpoint of concept formation and of the possible influence of the "imagery" process.