I’ve always loved spaces that are well designed for children. Too often, adults have weird ideas about what kids should like: grinning clowns, pastels and the like. The children’s room in the Seattle library shows a bit more thought, and at least an attempt to get on a kid’s level.
The first most obvious thing any children’s space should have is some consideration to a child’s size. This ought to be obvious but it’s amazing how often it’s over looked. Some of the first things I noticed in the children’s room at the library were these low, podlike rubber seats.
They’re not fantastically comfortable for an adult, but I imagine a small child would love how they bounce slightly. Because they’re non-directional (no front and back like with a chair) they’re also more suited to a child’s restless style of sitting, constantly shifting. I remember getting yelled at in school for kneeling on my chair, but with these pod seats there is really no “wrong” way to sit, and the likelihood of a kid hurting himself from falling off is very low. Anyway. My point: I like the seats.
Another clever feature Matt noticed was more directed at parents than children. In one section of the children’s room, near a separate reading room (which unfortunately I didn’t get to peek inside) were plastic kits loaded with picture books on different themes. Themes like a new baby in the family, or animals, or the alphabet. These would be a nice shortcut for parents with kids obsessed with Dinosaurs or something, or for kids who are facing a major change in their lives.
The artwork was one area that I was less impressed by. This is not so much because the artwork is inappropriate for children, (it was actually pretty cool, and quite unique) it’s just because for the most part it was too high. All the artwork was hung high on the concrete support beams, it was clear that the child friendly art was intended mainly for adult enjoyment. While I appreciate the stark industrial feel of the room and the contrast of the paper mache style wall hangings, I think many kids could be intimidated. I’d have liked to have seen more artwork at a child’s eye level, but on the other hand, maybe kids don’t care about that sort of thing as much as adults. Perhaps the abundance of space in this room is more valuable.
In one corner of the room there was a nice little children’s media area that I appreciated. I didn’t get a good look at the computers to see what kind of software they were running, but the child sized tables and chairs made for a welcoming space to learn and engage. Though I felt for any parents that had to cram themselves into the child sized space. The headphones are also a smart detail.
It is evident that the designers of this room tried to incorporate the library’s industrial style into a more kid friendly space, and for the most part I think they succeeded. While the decoration for the most part seems geared towards adults, the function of the room is clearly oriented towards children. Ultimately, I think the kids won’t mind the starkness of their surroundings, after all, if they want something to look at, there are always the hundreds of books.