Childhood should be a wonderful journey, and the Children's Museum of the East End helps make the trip even better with a discovery-themed approach to the familiar and the unknown, the real and the imagined, and environments both natural and urban. Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership provided complete architecture and exhibit design services for the Long Island museum.
In the lobby, an abstracted forest beckons children into the exhibit space. Toddlers can enter through a fallen log filled with animal sounds. Overhead, a treehouse perched in the branches invites visitors in to explore a child's bedroom that is in transition from indoor to outdoor, suggesting a journey beyond the familiar. A floating bed, a treasure map carpet, picture-book murals, and a glowing, star-filled constellation make the trip a wondrous one.
Beyond the bedroom are other new places to discover. Kids can explore the East End's local and natural history through immersive role-play environments including a storybook garden for toddlers; an agricultural area complete with a windmill, farm stand, and potato chip factory; a library reading room and firehouse; a musical forest filled with wildlife; an artist's studio; and a two-level fishing dock alongside a lighthouse. Each turn of a corner provides new worlds to journey through—a little like life itself.
Lee H. Skolnick (principal in charge); Jo Ann Secor (director, museum services); Scott Briggs (project manager/design lead); Maja Gilberg (senior interpretive specialist); Ellen Leerburger (interpretive development); Julie Chung and Bernardo Zavattini (exhibit design); Christina Lyons, Effie Chou, Carolyn Crowley, Anita Sheth (graphic design)
Melanie Freundlich Lighting Design (lighting); RBH Multimedia, Barking Fish Productions, Forever Films (audio/visual); Susan Bachemin, Rob Dunlavey, Sharen Dykeman, Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher, David Lafleur, Megan Montague Cash, Melissa Sweet (illustrators/artists); Paul Rosenthal (label copy); Daniel Gonzalez, Michael Ruggiero (photography); Jane Bloom (content development)
Tangram International Exhibitions (exhibit fabricator); Coastal Construction (construction management); Jeff Nishinaka (paper sculpture); Paul Orselli Workshop (wind machine); Work With Your Brain LLC (potato chip machine); SafeScape Concepts (giant library books)
"Oftentimes, children's museums create expected design solutions, such as the fire engine, the local grocer, and role-playing environments to introduce occupations. In this way, we deprive our youngest museum visitors of unexpected design solutions and whimsical environments. When it comes to designs for children (who are most apt to appreciate the unusual or enchanted), we fall short in our role as designers. The jurors commended this entry because it did not fall prey to its design genre. It uses the themes of discovery and exploration and follows through in consistency of design mission and environmental presence. Its design reflects that children deserve and thrive in well-interpreted environments that challenge imaginations and offer new ways of learning. The graphic interpretations are distinct and reminiscent of children's book illustrations. The integration of media, collections, and interactives is in keeping with the overall whimsical yet well executed approach."