As designers of spaces for young children, we can’t help but reference our own childhood experiences, either consciously or subconsciously. The following are favorite spaces we inhabited in our youth, and our musings on why they were so memorable. We agree that spaces which imprint the best childhood memories, whether intentionally or accidentally created, emerge from the fertile ground at the intersection of freedom and security. Our mission as grown up professionals is to approach design problems with creative innocence, as a child would, without preconceptions, yet tempered by informed intuition.
The garage at the home where Loretta grew up in Brooklyn abutted their neighbor’s garage, creating a narrow sliver of space bound by two walls, only about 18 inches wide at the ground, narrower up at the eaves, and about 20 feet long and 10 feet high. On the ground was a couple of feet of dead leaves; the walls were covered with ivy vines, and the space was of course open to the sky. Its most alluring feature was its secrecy – no nosy adult was likely to ever stumble upon her and her siblings, since the slot of space itself was shielded from view by some hedges. As she and her brothers grew older, they were able to scale the walls to scrabble up to the garage roof, a perch from which to observe the neighborhood activity. What made the space memorable for Loretta was its seclusion and uniquely child sized dimensions, a secret sliver of space no one else knew ever existed.
Loretta Arthur, Principal
Adam’s favorite space as a child was a steep hill in the back garden of his suburban London family home. It had the perfect slope for cruising down at great speed on the back of a Tonka truck. It’s landscaping wasn’t precious– Adam was able to dig a deep hole from which to hide in and peek out. Many hours were spent in the pit imagining it as a foxhole and dashing down the slope after bad guys. Adam’s back garden hill allowed for exciting, challenging physical activity, creativity in forming personal space and a platform for make-believe play.
Adam Collier, Project Manager
In Arizona, late summer means monsoon season and the daily cacophony that comes with. Renee’s favorite play space as a child was hiding by herself or with her cousins in her grandmother’s linen closet when the storms would begin. The closet doors had wood jalousie panels allowing for observation but could be shut when the lightning started. Sheets and towels made for quick forts and comfy seats. This space is also an enclosed, secure place that could easily be modified as desired.
Renee Roediger, Project Manager