We are honored to be working on a very exciting project in Santa Rosa. Last year the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (CMOSC) was awarded a $1.8m grant by the state of California’s office of Grants and local services. The grant money is to be used to design and build the outdoor museum features as part of a nature educational facility called “Mary’s Garden”. Mary as in Mariposa, the garden will be an interactive learning experience for children to learn about metamorphosis and pollination. The outdoor area is approximately 60,000 sq. ft. in size and will provide interactive exhibits.
The interactive exhibits are designed for children 10 and under to enjoy with their entire family or on a school field trip. We are working with the Museum staff to develop age-appropriate learning objectives that complement the curriculum for California state education.
With hands-on interaction, children and parents will develop a bond with nature that inspires future learning and a commitment to sustainable environmental living practices in their own lives.
The concept design of the site was developed by looking at a transect of the environments of Sonoma County – from the inland agricultural valleys to the Pacific Ocean. The idea is to connect children to the local environment through play.
The site design is centered around the main water feature. The ‘Russian river’ begins at the headwaters in the hill, and flows through the site to the beach, passing through gravel beds, and marshes along the way. This environmental reference creates the base for the different educational exhibits in the garden.
The exhibit also has a component of education around water issues. In the mechanical water play area, children learn how water gets pumped, stored and diverted through different simple mechanical ways, such as an Archimedes screw and hand pumps.
We are doing this project in partnership with Ron Holthuysen from Scientific Art Studio
who will be building all the exhibits. The design process has been incredibly collaborative and hands on with. Once the concept design was agreed upon, we took a field trip to the site to layout the design and get a better idea of the dimensions and the overall feel of the space.
It was a fun day out on the field. The site is pretty much flat and a blank canvas full of possibilities. We started by marking a 10′ x 10′ grid with orange landscape flags. Our amazing intern Jessica Forys and I started to translate the design layout into the grid with construction spray paint. It was pretty much like doing a giant drawing on the ground. While Jessica and I worked away, Andreas and Ron spent most of the day debating the plan and discussing life. Yay for women getting the job done! And the best part the client was happy with the layout and the feel of the space.
One big construction task was to relocate the existing driveway. Construction had begun and it was exciting to see all the heavy machinery working and relocating the driveway while we were there.
A few weeks after that we went on another field trip with Ron to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Ron wanted to show us the water play area that he built there. We are planning on building a similar water exhibit and we needed to understand the spacial considerations for the underground utilities, filters, pumps, etc. It is always fun to get to see how things work and everything that goes on underneath the built environment.
At the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Ron built a rock enclosure that holds all the equipment within. At the end of the “creek” the water goes through a strainer into a sump pump and then through a filter that cleans the water to be reused. This circulation reduces the amount of water used on the exhibit. We are probably doing something very similar for the “Russian River” water play part of our exhibit at the museum.
Today we had a design meeting at Ron’s shop. He started working on a live size mock up of the kinetic butterfly that will be at the entry of the garden. The butterfly will be operated by kids and they will be able to move the wings. It is fun to see the project start to come to life. Stay tuned for progress on this project, grand opening is planned for October 2013!