IF YOU GO:
The National Children’s Museum, at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, will cost $10.95 for age 1 and older.
The National Children’s Museum is slated to reopen in 2019 in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, just steps from the National Mall. It is an interactive children’s museum serving the Washington, DC metro area. In 2003, the United States Congress designated NCM as the only national museum dedicated entirely to children and their families.
Built on a foundation of inspiring curiosity and lifelong learning, the National Children’s Museum encourages visitors to imagine, investigate, create, and play. NATIONAL Children’s Museum officials are aiming for their facility in downtown Washington, DC, to be a reality next northern spring, and they are hoping kids will think that visiting it 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 children into a dreamlike world,” said Crystal Bowyer, president of the museum, which is being rebuilt after closing down in 2015.
The climber and slide Bowyer is talking about are part of the Dream Machine, a 15.2m round structure that will be at the centre of the museum, under construction in the Ronald Reagan Building.
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 on 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 might 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.
Davis and his two fellow designers didn’t want that task to be too easy. “The higher up you go, the more 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.
“The Gyroscope team are some of the best exhibit designers in the world,” Bowyer said.
“They specialise in children’s museums and science centres, and since we are combining these two platforms, they were the perfect choice.”
Gyroscope wanted to accommodate young and old in the Dream Machine. And the ability to climb won’t be required to enjoy it.
Davis said visitors in wheelchairs would be able to ascend it in a way that made them feel as though they had “climbed all the way up”.
He promised that there would be sound and light as part of the Dream Machine experience, and hinted that there would be more to discover as kids climbed in and up. “We are going to have little details that are subtle but will bring joy and surprise.”