‘Design not for children, but for everyone’: Jewish Museum Berlin’s new play space

Olson Kundig architecture and design practice brings kids’ play space ANOHA Children’s World to life inside a vast former wholesale flower market, at the Jewish Museum Berlin

Children playing in the picture to the left, raising a bucket with a chain to the higher ground. The "playground" is a wooden arc, made of multiple leaves, and filled with wooden animals, and different wood objects.
(Image credit: Yves Sucksdorff, Hufton & Crow)

The new ANOHA Children’s World, at the the Jewish Museum Berlin, is a vast new children’s play space designed with adults firmly in mind too. Situated in a former wholesale flower market in the Kreuzberg district, it converts the story of Noah’s Ark into a rich and interactive playground

The wooden ark, designed by US-based Olson Kundig architecture and design practice, sits at an impressive 7m tall and measures 28m in diameter. It is surrounded by 150 wooden animal sculptures, setting a scene for the children to interpret as they wish.

Wooden arc structure photographed from above.

(Image credit: Hufton & Crow)

Wooden arc "playground". A child is running down the slopped path to the left, divided by a metal fence from the rest of the space. To the right, we see two wooden sculptures, a big one of an elephant, and the much smaller one of sheep.

(Image credit: Yves Sucksdorff)

When designing a children’s play space, says Olson Kundig design principal Alan Maskin, ‘the most important consideration is to not design for children but to design for everyone. Research supports the idea that children have their most memorable museum experiences when shared with family and friends. As a designer, my goal is to get parents to put down their cell phones and play alongside their children. ANOHA is intended to be as interesting, engaging and compelling to adults as to the very young, and to make play irresistible to all ages.’

It is a philosophy reflected in the design of the space, which intertwines play with functionality – children get around by slides, on climbing structures and workbenches. They can build their own boat and test it in a flood simulator, develop their own animals from organic materials and learn about the composting process through interactive games.

Throughout, children have full control. ‘Children, as a construct of being cared for by adults and having their parents manage all aspects of their lives, have few opportunities for control and personal choice,’ points out Maskin. ‘Here the design gives them that sense of agency and control over how and where they choose to play. Function manifested as play is embedded in the ways children have fun.

Wooden arc "playground". We see two wooden sculptures, a big one of an elephant, and the much smaller one of a crocodile.

(Image credit: Hufton & Crow)

Wooden arc "playground". We see multiple wooden sculptures of different sizes - an elephant, a unicorn, a turtle, and many others.

(Image credit: Yves Sucksdorff)



Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.