David Rockwell's Imagination Playground

Designer more used to creating spaces for Gordon Ramsay and Broadway shows creates Washington installation
David Rockwell - Imagination Playground
David Rockwell - Imagination Playground


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David Rockwell has celebrity status in the US. His New York studio produces stage sets (for Hairspray and the like), restaurants (for Gordon Ramsay, among others) and resorts and casinos galore.

But despite – or because of – all that glitz, there’s a seemingly healthy ‘pro bono’ side to Rockwell Group. One such project is the Imagination Playground, a collection of variously sized and shaped foam building blocks which “overflow with creative potential for children to play, dream, build and explore endless possibilities”. 

Now Imagination Playground has been installed at Washington DC’s National Building Museum, as part of its Play Work Build show. The exhibition, which runs until November 2014, charts the history of active play by asking visitors of all ages to participate. “Through this exhibition, visitors will begin to see the connections between play, design, and the work of building professionals like architects and engineers,” they say.

To this end, the curators have filled shelves with more than 2,300 architectural and construction games, some of them dating back to the 1870s.

Next to this gallery is the full-scale Imagination Playground. “Blocks have always been a fundamental element of play,” Rockwell says. “[We are thrilled] to create a unique in-door play space within the historical context of construction and block play.”

Not only does this all sound like excellent fun, but there may be some genuine educational benefit to it too. Science shows that play can shape our brains. Designers are now thinking that you can actually shape different sorts of thinking in children depending on the toys they use and the activities they take part in. 

If you're a parent interested in taking this a bit further and maybe setting your kid off on a life of design appreciaton you should check our some of our great kid's books, especially Sara Fanelli's The Onion's Great Escape and Hervé Tullet's The Game Of Sculpture. They make great Christmas presents and are currently on offer in the Phaidon store


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