Play Work Build

Merit Award

The National Building Museum’s exhibition PLAY.WORK.BUILD takes visitors through an investigation of the history of construction toys and block play, combining the museum’s unique architectural toy collection with the Rockwell Group’s Imagination Playground concept.

The exhibition begins with a traditional gallery display culled from the museum’s collection of more than 2,300 sets of architectural and construction toys. After learning about the history of block play, visitors can proceed to the next gallery, which contains museum artifacts specifically focused on education. Here, visitors are also encouraged to test their own building skills with small-scale blue foam blocks designed by Rockwell Group.

The walls of the third gallery are covered with Imagination Playground trademark blue foam material, and hundreds of large-scale blocks are available for interactive play. Visitors can either re-imagine their small-scale buildings into over-sized structures or create something entirely new and original.

The final gallery contains an interactive installation of virtual block play created by Rockwell’s LAB. Through this hands-on, interactive exhibition, families can experience the connection between early examples of imaginative play and its modern-day interpretation, gain an appreciation of its historical significance, and design their own course of play.

Jury Comments: 

“The use of one predominant color (blue) works well for this installation as the children provide the visual counterpoint and animation.”

“This represents a wonderful integration of active play in a learning environment that is beautifully designed and executed.”

“Power and simplicity are the principal drivers in this design. There is a skillful balance at play here where the monochromatic three-dimensional elements are in contrast to the color and activity of the kids. Thematically this is well translated to a digital experience, too.”

Design Firm: 

Rockwell Group


National Building Museum

Location City: 

Washington, DC

Project Area: 

3,700 sq. ft.

Open Date: 

November 2012

Photo Credits: 

Kevin Allen

Design Team: 

David Rockwell (founder, CEO); Marc Hacker, Barry Richards, Shunyi Wu, Caroline Kim, Tomas Pedrasa, Na Zheng, Noah Winkler, Travis George, Caroline Hwang (exhibition design team); Donna Pallotta, Mary Knight, Liz Kauff, Claire Myers (graphic design team); Michael Dereskewicz, Morgan Moore (model shop); LAB at Rockwell Group, James Tichenor, Joshua Walton, Zack Boka, Jeff Crouse, Keetra Dean Dixon, Jessica Edmiston, Hendrik Gerrits and  Adi Marom (Interactive design team); Joan MacKeith, Sheela Pawar, Alexandra Kadlec, Beth Bowles (public relations team)


TalkingTree Creative (A/V interactive equipment)


M.H. Stallman Company (foam blocks), Dodge Chrome (wall mural and graphic panels)
General Imaging (floor graphics), Great Mats (modular playground floor tiles), Interface FLOR (carpet tiles)

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