Occupancy

July 2007

Location

4701 111th Street Flushing, NY

Client

New York Hall of Science

At the New York Hall of Science Preschool Garden, exuberant architectural interventions nest in a rolling landscape, creating a unique type of environment for play—and education. The pioneering design was informed by the latest research on the developmental abilities of preschoolers, specifically, how a child’s play contributes to the early formation of cognitive skills. The challenge was to create a playground that both encourages activity and sparks the imagination, unlike many existing playgrounds and equipment that is used in a prescribed manner.

The Preschool Garden serves the increasing number of family visitors to the museum with young children. In the past, the museum had geared their facilities design towards elementary and middle school groups, including a 30,000 square foot teaching park, “Kidpower!”, completed in 1997. The Preschool Park expansion is a 30,000 square foot addition to this existing park—an outdoor classroom for new educational programming that is focused on young learners engaging with the natural and built environment.

In an era of increasing ecological awareness, it was important to provide play space where young visitors could connect with the landscape. Because children are physically close to the ground, the varying terrain and surfaces become key design elements. Plantings extend the range of sensory stimulation, and change throughout the seasons, providing a varying palette of colors and scents. Colorful architectural interventions set in the transforming landscape offer opportunities for interaction with the natural world.

Awards

AIA New York, Education Facility Design Merit, 2008

NYC Art Commission, Award for Design, 2002

Press

“Preschool physics: a new playground at the New York Hall of Science lets preschoolers learn science through play,” Landscape Architecture, March 2008

“A New Way to Play: Shaping a New Environment for the New York Hall of Science’s Youngest Visitors,” The Exhibitionist, February 2008

“A tall task for architects: channeling the mind of a 5-year-old,” New York Sun, July 2007

Collaborators:
NYC Department of Design & Construction – construction administration; Weidlinger Associates – structural & civil; Lilker Associates – mechanical; Lee Weintraub – landscape architect; Case Construction – general contractor; Dr. Frances Wallach – playground safety consultant

Photos by Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

"This project puts the child at the center of design."

AIA NY Design Awards Jury