Main image: Photo credit © Inessa Binenbaum

The Efficiency Lab for Architecture’s design for Avenues New York’s new day care centre features a social playscape for exploratory learning. The New York Small World project is an interior renovation of the second floor of Avenues: The World School’s Chelsea, Manhattan building to expand its existing day care centre. It includes a new Movement Room, new restrooms, a new office and updates to the existing classrooms and corridors.

Movement Room

At the heart of the newly transformed Small World level lies an interior Movement Room, an undulating playscape that encourages discovery, creativity and exploration. To facilitate a more open flow through the Small World space, Efficiency Lab for Architecture reconfigured the floor layout.

The central areas that were used as offices, have been transformed into a playscape, while four classrooms have been renovated with new lighting, millwork and furniture to shape a more welcoming and functional learning environment.

The Movement Room is at the centre of the floor to optimise access for students from all classrooms.

Usage of natural materials

The classrooms are designed to integrate natural materials such as wood flooring. Walls are lined with tackable surfaces for children’s work to be displayed and to create an interactive learning space.

Flexible interior playscape designed for development

The custom interior playscape is designed as an environment where children’s physical sensations can be fully engaged, allowing them to use their entire bodies and to strengthen their muscles through crawling, running and jumping.

Photo credit: © Inessa Binenbaum

Designed specifically for toddlers, an age during which children are actively developing their motor skills, the playscape allows children to test their physical limits – how far can they run and how high can they climb and jump.

The Movement Room is protective, yet encourages risk-taking, discovery and creativity through play. The upholstered pieces form nooks and niches, curving around the corners and the columns of the space to support movement and experimentation. Children can rearrange many of the pieces to shape their own surroundings, allowing for a sense of active participation and direct engagement.

Social playing in a safe environment

Children learn through social play as well as through more contemplative and individualised discovery. The padding around the playscape elements, and the choice of soft fabrics wrapping the forms, not only create a safe environment, but also offer welcoming tactile surfaces.

Most play equipment is suited only for outdoor installation and is not, by law, accepted for interiors due to the use of standard playground plastics. However, Efficiency Lab for Architecture’s custom system is designed specifically for interior play – with compliant materials, such as fully fire-retardant plywood, wrapped in impact resistant padding with high-grade, easily maintainable fabric.

Another primary consideration in the design of the play environment was safety, hence all surfaces having a padded layer.

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