ARCH 573: Serious Play and ARCH 593: Fabricating Play
Graduate Design Studio and Detail + Fabrication Seminar
The Spring 2022 Chicago Studio worked closely with a real-world community partner, the Chicago Children’s Museum, to envision the future of interactive spaces for play and learning. Rather than adding an extension connected to its existing building on Navy Pier centered among tourists, this studio envisions a constellation of children’s museum “outpost" facilities distributed among Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. These nimble, intimate, and public-facing buildings provide a more engaged interface with Chicago families directly within the local cultural landscapes where they reside. This studio engages in multiple scales of design research, civic life, and the city. At the urban scale, students immerse themselves among the diverse cultures, landscapes, and identities of the city’s south-side, west-side, and north-side neighborhoods. At the architectural scale, students design a children’s museum outpost building situated within a specific community. At the personal scale, students delve into exhibit design for interactive galleries within the museum.
The concurrent advanced seminar in Detail + Fabrication challenged students to research, design, and oversee the fabrication of a play and climbing structure for children ages 3–8. Starting at the initial phase of conceptual design in January 2022, the student designers collaborated with Building Brown Workshop (BBW), a Chicago-based fabrication shop, to co-create the play structure. Students met frequently with BBW to establish design goals, analyze constructability, optimize budget, and discuss fabrication details. The play structure was initially exhibited at Design Museum of Chicago, and ultimately installed at an elementary school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The Chicago Studio students hosted participatory workshops with the 4th grade students at the elementary school to co-envision design goals and programmatic opportunities for the play structure in the context of the school day. The resulting design, entitled LÏFT, provide an informal sanctuary for small groups of elementary school students to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to change their physical vantage points, and to engage physical play to reset their social and emotional energies.