Text description provided by the architects. The space hinges on a series of plywood structures that playfully abstract elements of nature, recalling movement through woodland forts, dappled light streaming through trees, and the glow of the sun reflecting off of snow.
The playground was commissioned by Brooklyn-based wellness professional with expertise in yoga and childcare who desired an indoor environment for creative, collective play for a small group of children. Architensions looked to the natural world to create the framework for space, as well as to influential precedents in playground design. These included Isamu Noguchi’s “Contoured Playground,” a pioneering environment encouraging freeform play, and Aldo van Eyck’s series of Amsterdam playscapes, where multifaceted forms inspired different types of interaction and activity.
Architensions’ design process was rooted in the relationship between children’s experience and aesthetics. “As designers, we had to challenge ourselves and ask a number of questions,” explains Alessandro Orsini, Architensions co-principal. “How can the built environment relate to children’s imagination, cognitive development, and aesthetic appeal? Is it possible to merge aesthetics and function for a space that appeals to children?”
The organizing principle became experiential architecture, or a series of structures each producing different sensory effects that inspire both comfort and exploration in children. “The indoor architecture became an internalized landscape of events aimed at simulating the change of season or the effect of the light through snow,” says Nick Roseboro, Architensions co-principal. “This environment allows them to assume different body postures, to create boundaries, and to manipulate and re-invent their surroundings.”
Materials were likewise chosen with children, play, and safety in mind. Throughout the space, plywood is sanded and clear stained, and all paint is non-VOC natural stain.
Three primary structures are arranged in the environment, each with a distinct geometry and color scheme. A semicircular “tunnel,” recalling Noguchi’s Contoured Playground, manipulates the topography by rising from the ground through a series of shallow steps. Geometric cutouts line the 19-foot-long plywood passage. Outlined in frames painted sun yellow, eggplant purple, and kelly green, they act like windows into the larger room, simultaneously revealing the tunnel’s elevation while letting in cascades of light. A semi-translucent orange roof further enhances the interior’s colorful glow.
Next to a large window offering natural light, a cylindrical, green environment measuring 10-feet- wide-by-8-feet-tall makes reference to a treehouse, where children can climb a set of steps to observe the space through green fabric mesh that simulates the effect of the leaves. On the left side of the space, an enclosed form covered in semi-translucent washi paper hangs from the ceiling, which reaches nearly 12 feet. Its white, cone-like shape alludes to an igloo; from within, children experience a peculiar light condition resembling the effect of scintillating snow.
“The goal is to iconize the forms to make them recognizable and welcoming for the children,” explains Orsini. “And, at the same time, to create inspiring spaces where they will always feel in control of their environments.”
Walls of the room are covered on two sides with fabric with a liquid metal effect, alluding to water or sky, while another wall features a fresco of painted trees. As a finishing touch, the designers suspended four cloud-like forms made from foam slats painted bright white above the three primary structures, while the floor is clad in a soft, tan rubber recalling a forest floor coated in fallen pine needles.