In Brooklyn, Architensions' playspace combines abstracted natural elements and vibrant geometric forms to create an innovative space that children may explore both physically and imaginatively. In this structure defined by experiential architecture, the New York City- and Rome-based architecture and design studio constructs an imaginative and youthful playground that combines the natural and built environments through allusions to nature.
Commissioned by a Brooklyn-based wellness professional, the playground utilizes a series of plywood structures that form abstract natural elements like treetops, woodland paths, scattered sunbeams, and sparkling snowbanks. The resulting geometric forms encourage children to explore and discover new ways to play and engage with the structures, evoking the same interactive, freeform play of Isamu Noguchi’s “Contoured Playground” and of the many geometric structures in Aldo van Eyck’s series of Amsterdam playscapes.
Designing in a space as inherently imaginative as a playground means stepping away from what is expected. Alessandro Orsini, co-principal of Architensions, said in a press release, “As designers, we had to challenge ourselves and ask a number of questions. 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?”
With its distinct geometry and color, each piece of the playground inspires a different form of play and exploration for the children who use it. One such structure is the tunnel curving along one curtained wall of the space like a hollow tree limb, or perhaps turning like a worm. Upon entering the tunnel, a series of steps take children into a warm glow of light entering through colorful geometric windows and reflecting the orange ceiling. “The indoor architecture became an internalized landscape of events aimed at simulating the change of season or the effect of the light through snow,” said Architensions co-principal Nick Roseboro in a press release. This environment allows them to assume different body postures, to create boundaries, and to manipulate and reinvent their surroundings.”
While the environment encourages exploration and adventure, it is also designed for safety and comfort. The plywood of the structures is sanded and clear stained, and the paint is non-VOC natural stain.
Doused in natural light by the window, a green cylindrical structure resembling a treehouse tower or a gazebo offers a semi-enclosed space. Within, steps lead up to the grid-like, rounded exterior frame. Above, white strips of plywood suspended from the ceiling are aligned to echo the shape of clouds, at once enclosing and lifting the space. “The goal is to iconize the forms to make them recognizable and welcoming for the children,” Orsini said in a press release. “And, at the same time, to create inspiring spaces where they will always feel in control of their environments.”
Surrounding the cylindrical structure, a green mesh references leaves. Across the room, a cone of semi-translucent white washi-paper creates a semi-enclosed space much like an igloo, inside of which children can experience a glinting light similar to the reflection of glistening snow.
Metallic fabric falls like a water or the sky meeting the horizon from two walls to hug the space while also opening it up by reflecting the natural light. Meanwhile, the floor is a soft, tan rubber surface like a forest floor coated in pine needles, grounding the allusions to nature in the bright and geometric space.