Project 2, Play Furniture: Form & Function


This project is intended to provide a practical full-scale exercise, to design a piece of play furniture for a small child (pre-school) 3-5 years of age. 


  1. Encourage conceptual thinking through process applied to spatial and architectural problem-solving
  2. Introduce the concept of user centered design illustrated through a functional form
  3. Support the development of three-dimensional compositional skills through form making
  4. Develop skills of visual analysis based upon the exploration of planar forms 
  5. Instill the importance of structure, scale, location and context of public forms
  6. Develop an understanding of the relationship between space and form
  7. Understand contextual relevance of forms and objects in the public spaces they may occupy
  8. Continuously improve craft and technical drawing skills 


  1. Demonstrate the ability to craft representational form 
  2. Utilize prototyping practices to refine ideation and test materials on a small scale
  3. Execute visual composition solutions that consider all visible vantage points from variable distances
  4. Utilize visual analysis, hand-craft, and digital tools, to construct and refine 3D form 
  5. Display an understanding of material characteristics and the impact of structural form on function
  6. Assimilation of critiquing skills


  • Sketchbook
  • Hot glue gun that accepts 1⁄2” glue sticks
  • 18” or 24” ruler (Dick Blick has a nice 2” wide aluminum model called the “Alumicutter” – great for safe cutting.)
  • X-acto knife (that uses #11 blades) with 5-10 replacement blades
  • Utility knife with extra blades
  • Cardboard, Card stock

Process: Part 1.

  • To make it instantly appealing to that age group, we would like you to base your designs around an animal form. The choice of animal is yours, but keep in mind that the animal’s physiology will dictate the form of your furniture to a certain extent. For example, how will you have a steady base to your piece of furniture if the animal has four legs?
  • You must consider issues of safety, especially balance, as well as strength of materials, physical attributes of children of that age, and whether they will be accompanied by an adult.
  • Visit a children’s play area, for example at the mall, to see how they interact with these play areas (note these are not furniture!).
  • Research animal forms which children of that age are familiar with. Keep these studies in your hardback sketchbooks.
  • Explore what kind of furniture your animal forms would most suit, or vice versa. It could be that your furniture could take a very different to that which you will see in a play area. This may include
  • Your initial maquettes should spring from this important research and exploratory accompanying studies above.

Process: Part 2.

  • Having learned from your maquettes , you will now scale the furniture up to full (child) scale.
  • Now, the size and weight of children that will utilize the furniture should be considered. However, art in public places will always be played on by older children. So your piece must support your own weight.
  • An essential factor is how to provide structural integrity, with easy construction and the economical use of materials.
  • Keep in mind that safety is paramount and must override all other design decisions! You must also think of every mistake a child can make while misusing the furniture––especially the possibility of falls.
  • Your play furniture will be user-tested by a child(ren) and you must also have fine quality photographic images for your portfolios.