by Akash SinghAug 15, 2023
Children’s Playscape, an imaginative indoor playground designed by New York-based design studio Architensions, plays with the possibilities of artistic and experiential design for children. Located in Brooklyn, New York, the 875-sqft space pivots on a group of plywood structures that naively symbolise elements of nature.
Architensions embarked on the project by asking, “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 design process found its muse in the relationship between children’s experience and aesthetics, resulting in recreated moments of wandering through woodland forts and dappled light streaming through trees. “The indoor architecture became an internalised landscape of events aimed at simulating the change of season or the effect of the light through snow,” says Nick Roseboro, Architensions co-principal.
Experiential design became the guiding principle, producing a series of structures that evoke comfort and exploration by engaging the children’s senses. “The environment allows children to assume different body postures, to create boundaries, and to manipulate and re-invent their surroundings,” shares Roseboro.
The playscape is an arrangement of three primary structures, each having a unique geometry and colour scheme. Taking cues from Isamu Noguchi’s ‘Contoured Playground’, a semicircular “tunnel” rises from the floor through a set of shallow steps, changing the terrain of the scene. ‘Contoured Playground’ is a pioneering environment that promotes freeform play, and served as an important design precedent for the project.
Colourful geometric cutouts along the 19-foot-long plywood passage act as windows into the larger room, bringing in light while exposing the tunnel’s elevation. A semi-translucent orange canopy also heightens the interior’s colourful glow.
Children can climb a series of steps into a tubular green “treehouse” beside a wide window. From here, they can peer into the playspace through a green fabric mesh that imitates the presence of leaves.
Towards the left of the playscape, a white semi-translucent washi paper hangs from the 12-foot high ceiling to enclose a cone-shaped space that signifies an igloo. Inside, children experience an eccentric light condition that resembles the effect of scintillating snow.
To top it off, Architensions dangled four cloud-like forms made of white foam slats over the three primary structures. Soft tan rubber coats the floor, recalling a forest floor covered in fallen pine needles.
“The goal is to iconise the forms to make them recognisable and welcoming for the children and, at the same time, to create inspiring spaces where they will always feel in control of their environments,” explains Alessandro Orsini, founding principal of Architensions.
All materials were selected after thoughtful consideration of children, play and safety. The paint is of non-Volatile Organic Compound natural stain, and the plywood throughout the space is sanded and clear stained. The walls are clothed on two sides with fabric along with a liquid metal to create an impression of water or sky. Another wall presents a fresco of painted trees.
Architensions primarily took inspiration from nature to create the framework. Influential examples such as Noguchi’s ‘Contoured Playground’ and Aldo van Eyck’s series of Amsterdam playscapes - where multifaceted forms stimulated different types of interaction and activity - also informed the design.
The playground was commissioned by Brooklyn-based wellness professional with a focus on yoga and childcare. The client sought an indoor setting for a small group of children to partake in creative and collective play.(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, intern at stirworld.com)