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.