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VERTI | SCHOOL | PLAYGROUND

Architecture

Carolina Almeida Columbia University
United States of America

Project idea

What is play? What is a playground? How do we play?

"These days, with smartphones, flexible work options, cloud storage and our increasing mobility it seems that work has invaded every aspect of our lives. What used to be considered the bedroom is now an office, what used to be a leisurely afternoon at a café is now a meeting, what used to be public space is now a convention center...Far from liberation, however, this invasion increasingly looks like submission. Where are the spaces for creativity? For dreaming?

What we are missing, many think, is the space to play. The urge to play of course begins with children. In previous eras, architects found inspiration in design of play spaces for children, from the Bauhaus and Corbusier during the Modernist movement to post war pioneers such as Team Ten’s Aldo van Eyck and the “Adventure Playground” movement in Europe, American designers and artists such as Louis Kahn and Isamu Noguchi in the 1970’s. Today, architects like David Rockwell, Capitein Roodnat in the Netherlands, Snohetta, Elemental, Tashiko Horiuchi, among others are continuing that tradition. We are also in our own work always inspired by designing spaces for children, whether they are in school, at play...or even just accompanying their parents parking on a parking garage! We believe that in play lies the antidote to a banal environment primarily defined through working...and that architects can use play as a means to imagine more radical and immersive public experiences.

For children, however, play is something more serious. Play is the primary means by which children learn and discover their place in the world. Designing specifically for play means recreating aspects of the world that children can both experience and be actively engaged in changing. A good play space is a microcosm of the world itself, providing and combining many different types of spaces, materials, ages, surfaces and equipment." - Dan Woods

The goal of this project is to challenge the question, "What is play?" and the design of a typical playground. The design takes the takes the playground into its urban future, turning things literally on their head and creating a vertical urban playground for a site on the edge of Thompkins Square, New York. The project's emphasis was to create a new school typology based on play, but also on creating entirely unimagined new types of spatial and sectional experiences.

Project description

The project’s rendition of play in this design came about the differentiation between the transformative spaces and the dictational spaces. The transformative spaces are illustrated by mix use rooms or empty volumes that have a specific program but can be easily evolved based on the need of the user. The dictational spaces are more rigorous and defined as the design dictates the location of the different play elements.

The building is shaped in stacks of forms framing a systematic action within it that is enrich by the use
of the construction material. The structure become a sculptural object in the dense city of New York
that acts in a vertical manner. The building breaks away from those standards as it takes the action of a stacked material that is define by a perimeter and becomes its own melody inside of the children
imagination.

The project contains horizontal and vertical movements for children as play is design in a continuous loop of wonders and never-ending motion. The school become nodes for a supplementary environment that serves intertwined groups of people. The structure serves as a sculptural object as its facade becomes a dynamic threshold between the classroom and the city.

Technical information

The four colors represent the four organizational bands which contain individual programmatic elements on the models and drawings. The pink color represents the vertical playground which works as well as the facade of the school. The blue color represents the classrooms and the secondary support teaching programs just as the library, dance studio, art studio and little-gym. The orange color represents the vertical circulation through the building and is subdivided into the interior playground and general circulation. Lastly, the green color, which looks into the back garden and contains a green roof, represents the staff and parents spaces, where offices, lounges, kitchen and conference rooms are located.

Co-authors

Author: Carolina Almeida
Collaborators / Instructors: Dan Wood and Maurizio Bianchi Mattioli from WORKac + Columbia University GSAPP