"We now know that children learn best through play, an understanding that has guided us to re-envision how our children's spaces could maximize children's learning."
-Siobhan A. Reardon, Free Library president and director
The playspaces for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Whitman, Wyoming, and Cecil B. Moore Branches are part of a broader dialogue around contemporary library programming. The playspaces provide opportunities for kids to engage the library through movement and play, be it on a climbing wall at the Cecil B. Moore branch, on stage at the Wyoming branch, or from a new vantage point within the tower at the Whitman Branch.
Attune to the body of a child, each design employs a kit-of-parts approach to add a new scale of spaces to the library. Each space has a variety of elements: surfaces that prompt climbing, “life size” blocks for seating and building, alcoves for read alouds, nooks for solo reading, and magnetic boards with sets of letters and shapes to encourage language development and math-based learning with fractions, sorting, and pattern recognition.
Designs for each space were forged through a series of hands-on design charrettes with kids, caregivers, librarians and staff. Though similar in spirit, each playspace reflects the communities they serve and responds to the unique architectural context of each branch. At Cecil B. Moore Branch, the triangulated geometry of the playspace takes its cue from an existing mural in the children’s wing featuring a historical narrative unfolding on a triangular grid. At Whitman Branch, a tower provides kids with a new vantage point out to the city through existing clerestory windows, and at Wyoming branch, the form of the stage echoes classical motifs present throughout the original Carnegie Library.
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