StudioMLA Architects Completes New Playground Design for Fayerweather Street School

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The “Spinning Tree”- photo by Fayerweather Street School

Cambridge, MA – StudioMLA Architects, an architecture, landscape, and interior design firm, announced the opening of a new playground at the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge. The playground completion was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony at the coeducational, private school on Nov. 8.

Starting in the fall of 2012, Fayerweather administrators began the playground renovation process by working with studioMLA and soliciting ideas from teachers, staff, parents, and children through a series of community meetings. StudioMLA helped Fayerweather develop three major goals: to make the new playground physically challenging to promote healthy risk-taking; foster cooperative, multi-age play; and provide cozy and discrete spaces that encourage creative and dramatic play.

StudioMLA’s design embodies the myriad of activities, spaces, and play elements that the community identified as essential in the pre-design conversations with the architects, and features three very large and physically challenging climbing structures that anchor the space They are:a custom-built “Giant Slide” (10 feet high, 10 feet wide, and 20 feet long), with tree stump steps and a tunnel under the slide featuring three pairs of giant blue mirrors and removable art panels designed for art classes to paint on; a “Spinning Tree,” a 15-foot high rope pine cone that revolves on a metal pole, encouraging climbing for various skill levels and communication among children as the structure spins; and an “Explorer Arch,” a 10-foot high and 20-foot long steel arch climbing structure outfitted with ropes and bungee cables, providing the fun of a modern jungle gym.

The new play space offers a wide multitude of play opportunities for the school community, which includes children ages 3-14, and has sparked students’ imaginations to create new games and ways to play. Additional playground elements include a turf lawn area for running, tumbling, and pick-up games, as well as sitting quietly in the grass with friends; a significantly enlarged sandbox with a water feature; a “secret garden” featuring a willow branch hut; and a trike “roadway” that encourages children to ride new multi-passenger trikes to and from various “loading docks.” For older students and adults, seating areas are provided to observe and just “hang out.


“StudioMLA was invaluable in facilitating a process that helped us articulate what we hoped our new playground space would provide for our children and then made that vision a reality,” said Edward Kuh, Fayerweather Street School’s head of school. “Joanne Hiromura, studioMLA’s landscape architect, truly listened to our community and collaborated with us to design a state-of-the-art playground that exceeded all our expectations. With studioMLA’s design expertise and leadership, the playground project has transformed and expanded our community and learning environment and elevated the level of our facilities. The smiles and laughter on our playground tell us that we have succeeded beyond what we could have imagined.”

Enrolling about 200 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, Fayerweather’s students are grouped in multi-age classrooms. Building on the school’s philosophy of cross age-level learning and play, the 9,000 SF play space features specific elements that achieve these goals and values.

Play spaces are much more than places for children to run and burn off steam; they can be inspiring places where children discover and challenge their own abilities and learn about their connection to their surroundings and their relationship to others. StudioMLA specializes in designing children’s environments that reflect the firm’s deep understanding of the value and importance of play in a child’s development. Combining skill, creativity, and a collaborative approach, studioMLA’s expertise in the area of designing children’s environments goes beyond knowing how to navigate complex codes and rules. StudioMLA designs projects that create positive change for organizations and communities.

The BSC Group provided civil engineering services, and Your Space Landscaping was the contractor for the project.


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