The Latin School Play Garden occupies the grounds of the former Lurie Mansion in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. While the land was originally purchased for school programming and renovation of the building for additional classroom space, ADA compliance and budget restrictions instead prompted the re-imagination of the building as administrative offices, using the grounds as a new play space for the Lower School children, aged four to six. This creatively addressed the school’s overcrowding issues while maximizing budget and outcome. It also provided a much-needed addition to the school’s singular rooftop playground, allowing the school to simultaneously stage recess and outdoor playtime for all grades.
The playground was designed according to the principles of Reggio Emilia, an approach towards early childhood education that encourages children to construct their own learning through play and exchange with each other, as well as with the teacher. In this context, the environment is the teacher, inspiring children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests.
Our proposal creates two distinct zones; one active and one more contemplative. Both include a colorful ground plane that can be interpreted at once as an abstract painting, transportation system, and cartographic gameboard. Within this field lies a raised garden, sunken classroom, climbing wall, and serpentine seating of various geometries. Multiple textures and materials have been employed; plants, rubber, rocks, crushed stone, mulch, and wood. A stage for theatrical performances and an orchestra pit round out some of the opportunities for play and engagement.
Latin School Play Garden
Architect/Landscape Design: Level Architecture Incorporated
Design Consultant: Sakayan Inc.
General Contractor: Larry Asimow Landscaping
Specialty Carpentry: Benchdog Construction
Photographers: Kendall McCaugherty; Hall + Merrick Photographers