In contrast to The Met’s ubiquitous stone walls and neoclassical symmetry, the 81st Street Studio has no dominant colors or strict hierarchies that define spaces designated for children versus adults, loud versus quiet, public versus private, and textured versus intangible. Rather, its furniture, floors, and wall surfaces are a mixture of attractive yellow, orange, red, green, and blue colors. The spaces at 81st Street Studio blend into each other following a figure-of-eight pattern that creates semi-central nodes in the middle for group activities while providing sub-nooks for children to crawl into on their own if they want to, reservations within easy reach.
“The original library in which the 81st Street studio was located was rectilinear bookcases built along this heavy grid of columns. In our design we tried to create this fluid landscape,” said Adam Weintraub. “The design is inspired by my memories of being a kid on the playground.” . Children can easily become intimidated by all the activities, so we provide spaces for group play and storytelling as well as a more solitary experience. that.
In the space, a central seating area partially lined with white perforated panels intended to mimic tree canopies is covered. This item is inspired by Michi Hosono’s childhood in Tokyo; A common idea in Japanese design. “The lighting above the painting mimics the circadian rhythm of fall and summer,” Hosono said. that. “It’s supposed to feel like sunlight passing through foliage touching the ground. This is to create a peaceful area for the education department,” she said. “It’s supposed to be like bringing Central Park into the space.”
The new children’s area features not one but multiple references to Japanese architecture. One display wall towards the entrance features Japanese wallpaper made from wood, as well as cork, oak, cedar and other types of touch and smell, introducing children to the possibilities of sustainable materials and the cycles of aging. “One of the first questions we asked ourselves in design was: How do we engage with all five senses?” Weintraub said. “Architecture is often image-heavy. But with children, they are more attuned to other senses like touch and smell.
To activate aroma receptors, even the pillows at 81st Street Studio are designed: yellow pillows have a lemon scent, and orange pillows have an orange scent. The wood is deliberately coated with a layer of paint meant to recall the wooden ships of Tokyo; Transporting children from the five boroughs around the world, even if just for a few seconds.
For more vocally inclined kids, on the other side of the sensory wall is a music station designed by Yamaha’s Cape Washio equipped with bird chimes, a stand-up guitar, a teat wall, an organ and a marimba. The music station is placed directly against the material panels to teach children that architecture and space often affect how acoustics are received and transmitted.
Accessibility was also paramount in the KOKO design process, the architects said. Weintraub and Hosono noted that the ADA ramp at the entrance that feeds into the elevated library area was designed to feel seamlessly integrated into the space so as not to alienate disabled users. They wanted the ramp to be a feature that children would enjoy regardless of their ability. “Instead of treating the handicap ramp as a back part of the design like a lot of buildings, we made it a focal point,” Weintraub said. “We wanted to make it fun so every kindergartner would want to use it.”
The 81st Street Studio on Met Fifth Avenue will offer free educational programs for children and caregivers through active learning. Its programs will include art classes and STEM courses. As such, the space itself was a collaboration between KOKO; Heidi Holder, Chair of the Department of Education, Frederick B. and Sandra B. Rose Metropolitan University; and the Metropolitan Museum’s Departments of Conservation, Scientific Research, Curation, Design, and Digital and Capital Projects.
“With its focus on interdisciplinary learning through the five senses, the 81st Street Studio is an additional catalyst for how The Met engages with all visitors,” Holder said. “It positions the museum as a place where visitors can make joyful discoveries, take risks, and ask questions—activities that are essential to reimagining the future role of museums in our communities.” Bluecadet, an experience design firm, was also a partner on the interactive media components for the space. Mark Richey Woodworking and Design manufactured the custom millwork for the space while Round Square Builders was the construction managers.
“Where else are things like this available?” asked Michael Benedetto, the New York State Assemblyman who represents the 82nd District, at the grand opening. “This space is something that kids living in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan haven’t gotten to experience yet,” he said. “They can come here now for free and discover the world for themselves,” Benedetto said. that. “As a former teacher, I know that everyone learns differently,” Benedetto continued. “Some kids are visual learners, some are very auditory learners, some are tactile learners and need to feel things and touch them. What 81st Street Studio does is bring all the senses together,” he said. “Everyone can learn how to feel more comfortable.”
As of this week, the doors of the 81st Street studio are open to the public. For more information about programming, scheduling or visiting, follow this link.