Na­tional Chil­dren’s Mu­seum to of­fer climb into the clouds


WASH­ING­TON — Na­tional Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of­fi­cials aim for their fa­cil­ity in down­town D.C. to be a re­al­ity next spring, but they’re hop­ing kids will think that vis­it­ing is like step­ping into a dream.

“We wanted to cre­ate magic from the first mo­ment of en­try, and the climber and slide pro­vide that sense of fun and ad­ven­ture to trans­port into a dream­like world,” said Crys­tal Bowyer, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Chil­dren’s Mu­seum. The mu­seum is start­ing over af­ter it closed its space in Jan­uary 2015 at Na­tional Har­bor in Oxon Hill, Mary­land.

The climber and slide Bowyer is talk­ing about are part of the Dream Ma­chine, a 50foot round struc­ture that will be at the cen­ter of the mu­seum, which is un­der con­struc­tion in the Ron­ald Rea­gan Build­ing, near the Mall.

It will fea­ture net­ting, ropes, two slides, mo­biles and balls, some large enough to climb in­side.

“I think the im­pres­sion will be, ‘Oh, look at that cool thing. Oh, there’s peo­ple in it. How do I get in?’ “said Ron Davis from Gy­ro­scope, the com­pany that de­signed the Dream Ma­chine.

Davis, the project’s lead de­signer, said clouds were a big in­spi­ra­tion for the struc­ture. He and two co-work­ers looked on Pin­ter­est for ideas of how they could turn the idea of clouds dis­si­pat­ing, or break­ing up, into some­thing to climb on.

They came up with stacked balls, many of which will be glossy white on the out­side. Some will have a fin­ish like a mir­ror. Some will move. Net­ting that is translu­cent, or lets light through, will al­low vis­i­tors to climb in and around the balls.

“As you look up, the sort of twist­ing cloudy form will con­tinue,” Davis said.

A slide was a “must-have” part of the Dream Ma­chine, he said. A ride down the metal tube will take vis­i­tors from the main level to the lower level in a long curve.

“If you come down this slide, it’s like com­ing through a black hole,” he said.

That idea might be scary for some kids, so there will also be a smaller slide as a “starter ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Some vis­i­tors may fo­cus on the slide, but oth­ers might be at­tracted to the ropes and net­ting, Davis said.

“There are some peo­ple who will say, ‘My first chal­lenge is go­ing to be to get to the top,’ “he said. “Ev­ery­one’s got a dif­fer­ent take on it.”

Davis and his two fel­low de­sign­ers didn’t want that task to be too easy.

“The higher up you go, the most chal­leng­ing it is,” he said.

And al­though the de­sign­ers wanted to make the Dream Ma­chine chal­leng­ing and fun, they also had to make it safe and fit in­side the mu­seum’s cir­cu­lar stairs. That sounds like a tough as­sign­ment, but it wasn’t the first time Gy­ro­scope has cre­ated a climb­ing struc­ture. That’s why the chil­dren’s mu­seum chose the com­pany.


A pre­view of what the Na­tional Chil­dren’s Mu­seum’s Dream ma­chine will look like.

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