Parsons’ Design-Build Project Transforms the Entrance Hall of Children’s Museum of the Arts

(via The New School News)

When you consider the function of a lobby, ideas like “entrance,” “waiting area,” or maybe “the way to get from the door to the elevator” probably come to mind.

But a lobby is more than just a way to get from point A to point B: It’s also meant to convey a lasting image of the institution or business.

That’s the kind of thinking that motivated students and faculty members at The New School’s Parsons School of Design in the transformation of the 1,200-square-foot entrance hall of the Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) in TriBeCa.

Led by Design Workshop, an innovative design-build studio comprising graduate architecture students, the project highlights Parsons’ commitment to design-led civic engagement and its real-world educational approach.

“The ‘learning by doing’ model, which is the backbone of the Parsons Design Workshop, affords our students the opportunity to fully realize their designs in built form,” says Joel Stoehr, director of Design Build Projects at Parsons’ School of Constructed Environments. “Student designers learn how an idea evolves from concept sketch to construction document to building permit and how these ideas are realized in the transformation of raw material into constructed artifact.”

The renovation was created to meet several of CMA’s design needs, including stroller storage, acoustics, branding, and increasing visibility of the visitor services desk. (Photo/Diego Ledezma-Perez)

Designed during the spring 2017 semester and constructed over the summer, the renovation was created to meet several of CMA’s design needs, including stroller storage, acoustics, branding, and increasing visibility of the visitor services desk. The centerpiece of the renovation is a new wall made up of two layers of perforated plastic illuminated by colored lights. The wall divides the lobby space into a “functional side,” which includes a new stroller parking area and storage space, and a “fun side,” a gathering space “where visitors of all ages are delighted by the light and pattern,” according to Angela DeGeorges, MArch ’18, a Design Workshop student who worked on the renovation.

Interactive Light Wall (Photo/Diego Ledezma-Perez)

“The CMA renovation is a spatial reorganization that accommodates the diverse and changing needs of the museum,” she adds. “Our strategy was to address each of CMA’s challenges with an architectural intervention that solves a problem but also brings visual delight to the space.”

Additionally, a series of dichroic acrylic panels suspended from the ceiling in front of the large south-facing windows allow light of different colors to be simultaneously reflected and transmitted. When parents check in to CMA, “the open lobby allows children to play in the colorful light projecting on the floor from the windows, be intrigued by a chase of color along the wall, or dance in front of an interactive art piece by Danny Rosen,” according to the students who worked on the project.

A series of dichroic acrylic panels suspended from the ceiling in front of the large south-facing windows allow light of different colors to be simultaneously reflected and transmitted. (Photo/Diego Ledezma-Perez)

A challenge faced by those working on the project was making sure that the materials used were both environmentally friendly and safe for children visiting CMA. That’s where Parsons’ Healthy Materials Lab (HML) came in. Jack Dinning, head researcher at HML, conducted workshops and consulted with Design Workshop students throughout the design, product evaluation, fabrication, and installation processes.

“Kids are particularly vulnerable to the effects that toxic materials can have on their health,” Dinning said. “Exposures during this stage of life can disrupt their early developmental processes, both physical and cognitive, leading to disorders ranging from asthma to learning disabilities to life-threatening illnesses like childhood brain cancers.”

With this concern in mind, Dinning and the students incorporated safer rubber flooring, sustainably forested plywood, and acoustic treatments made of recycled plastic.

Design Workshop echoes the real-world experience of collaborating with a real client. With guidance from Parsons faculty members Sharon Sutton, Nick Brinen, Mark Gardner, and Stoehr and assistance from West Chin Architects and Conto and Sons contractors, students participated in focus groups with museum visitors and conducted research before creating a proposal. During construction, they made decisions about which materials and hardware to use and generated shop drawings outlining their proposed design. By collaborating with a client, they had a chance to get their hands dirty and familiarize themselves with all aspects of the design and building of a commissioned project.

Parsons’ Design Workshop (Photo/Diego Ledezma-Perez)

The CMA lobby renovation is the latest project highlighting Parsons’ and Design Workshop’s commitment to design-led civic engagement. Past collaborations include the creation of a seating area at El Sitio Feliz, a popular community garden in Harlem; and changing room pavilions at the Sunset Park Recreation Center pool in Brooklyn and the Highbridge Recreation Center in Washington Heights.

In the renovation of the CMA lobby the Parsons students had a very satisfied client.

“The new lobby strengthens our ability to welcome all children and their families to make art at CMA,” says Barbara Hunt McLanahan, executive director of the museum. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with students from The New School to create an innovative and inviting entry to the museum. We look forward to welcoming visitors into our new lobby and lounge.”

Design Workshop Children’s Museum of the Arts Renovation (Photo/Diego Ledezma-Perez)


Learn more about Parson’s School of Design here.

Outside the Studio | Representation and Spatial Design at Parsons

When you think about architecture school, the “studio” course is likely the first thing to come to mind. Within architecture school, there are so many other courses that help develop the unique skills that an architect needs. Recently, we have come across quite a few courses that are redefining the role of “elective” in architectural education and over the next two months, our blog will take a deeper look in a series called OUTSIDE THE STUDIO.

Today, we chat with Angela DeGeorge, a graduate student at the Parsons School of Design, about her Spring semester course, “Representation and Spatial Design II,” fondly referred to as “helmet class,” which explored the intersection of “material attributes and modeling techniques, and the spatial aspirations for built form.” The work from the studio was widely published on IMADETHAT’s Instagram, an account that captures the work of architecture students and faculty from all over the world. Check out two other final projects from @iam_meredith and @nicktafel!

iam_meredith's Helmet

iam_meredith’s Helmet

Nick Tafel's Helmet

Nick Tafel’s Helmet

The first assignment called “Make a Helmet: Analog” prompted the students to explore techniques using sheet materials, fabrics, sticks, tape, glue, foam, wood, plastic, etc. In week four of the class, the students were asked to transform their helmet and explore 3D printing and casting techniques. Assignment 6 asked students to explore laser cutting/tessellations and unfolding. Each week, the students were asked to test out a new representation and modeling techniques.

Angela approached the challenge of designing a “helmet” by examining the correlation between “helmet” and “shelter.” A helmet protects you in the same way a structure can. Enter “The Meditation Pavilion.” She describes it as “a folding structure that can be deployed to increase mindfulness and dissolve distractions. From within the pavilion, the sharp folds of material are inherently distracting, but the materiality and graphic qualities are meant to equalize those distractions. As the light interacts with the iridescent film which wraps the pavilion, the geometry seems to disappear at certain moments. The form is inspired by a basic origami folding pattern, and the final scale model is made of 32 acrylic triangles assembled into a rigid, self-supporting structure.”

Conceptual Rendering

The Meditation Pavilion


The Meditation Pavilion _ Conceptual

Describe your process. 

The course encouraged us to use a diversity of representational techniques to both document and facilitate the evolution of our concepts. Throughout the semester, I used both digital and analog fabrication methods to test out my ideas. It was interesting to take a very analog process (folding a piece of paper) and then manipulate it with digital modeling and fabrication tools. I tend to be more of an analog-maker, so it was a great lesson in the opportunities and constraints of the tools at my disposal.


Study Model


Process Materials


Stencil for Faceted Structure



I began using Rhino as a 3D modeling tool. I got to a point where I realized that I didn’t quite know how to make the folding-geometry I wanted in Rhino, so I switched to folding paper by hand. Then, when I jumped up in scale, I chose to use the laser-cutter to achieve precise folds in larger pieces of material.Final_7_BWFinal_6_BWFinal_5_BWFinal_4_BWFinal_3_BWFinal_1_BWFinal_Folding Blur

Resources you would like to share:

“Folding for Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form” by Paul Jackson. And lots of Pinterest.

Describe Parsons School of Design.

Parsons is focused on addressing social and environmental challenges with architectural solutions. The school is deeply connected to New York City – all of our projects are sited within the city. And, at Parsons, there is a lot of enthusiasm for making beautiful things. We are encouraged to experiment with our representation and process of making. 

What do you intend to do upon graduation? 

I’d like to continue to build a variety of experiences and skills. I’m interested in pursuing work that prioritizes energy efficiency and healthy spaces because I think my generation of architects and designers will play a big role in preparing our cities for growing populations. If all else fails, the back-up plan is to become an oyster farmer. I have no experience, I just respect the profession and love the ocean.

Follow Angela on Instagram to see more of her work! @ba_nangela

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Angela DeGeorge, Graduate Student at Parsons School of Design

If you are interested in learning more about Parsons The New School of Design, visit their StudyArchitecture Profile Page!