March 31, 2015

Big Ideas: HDR Converts Underground Storage Into An Unusual Playground

Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum had a hidden asset. Beneath the 1931 art deco building was library storage that had long gone underused. Until it was brought to light—and a new life—with the help of the architects and designers at HDR. Now the 1,500 square feet house a children’s center called Art Works: A Place for Curiosity.

Who knew that nine activity stations, dedicated to such endeavors as portraiture, still life, touch-screen painting, and stop-motion animation, could all fit without feeling cramped? That’s because HDR design director Thomas Trenolone kept elements simple, bright, and, most important, kid-proof. Case goods are clad in plastic laminate, white and easily wipeable. Ditto for the solid-surfacing that tops worktables, paired with orange stools of recycled polyethylene. For flooring, brown cork
maps out the circulation route, while apple-green recycled rubber anchors the stations. The paint on the walls and the upholstery of banquettes and reading nooks are the same happy color.

Art Works is of course windowless, but there’s plenty of LED cove lighting, and the same glow emanates from a decorative column constructed from frosted polycarbonate panels. A tub directly below the column holds hundreds of colorful interlocking acrylic shapes, awaiting installation. Sculptors-in-training could give the museum atrium’s Dale Chihuly a run for its money.

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