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What should open-ended play look like? The Grayson Play-Lab by Matter Design offers a bold answer. Conceived for adolescents past monkey-bar age, and premised on the value of learning through fun, the project resembles a fantastical, kid-friendly Stonehenge.

Its colossal creatures — a set of concrete characters arranged in cosmic alignment on an open landscape — make up the main structures. These megalithic objects feature details through which students can employ a series of wooden instruments called “glyphs,” custom elements that allow kids to interact with the sturdy sculptures in a variety of ways. 

“The radical, innovative part of this concept is that it empowers children to use their creativity to influence their own environment.”
Ini Archibong, AZ Awards 2021 Juror

In fact, they are also encouraged to create their own glyphs (the school where the first Play-Lab has landed owns a CNC router) in order to bring to vivid life key classroom lessons: taking measurements, conducting physics experiments or confirming a trigonometry equation.

“Over the course of their education, students are challenged to discover the meaning behind these design decisions, to calculate their coordinates and to understand the logics of how high design can influence their whimsical but rigorous education,” the designers explain. The biggest lesson: Play has an immeasurable impact as a world-building endeavour — especially when it’s not based on deterministic outcomes.

Team Brandon Clifford with Jo Lobdell, Tyler Swingle, Emily Whitbeck and Kevin Marblestone (Matter Design); Davide Zampini (CEMEX Global R&D); Melissa Bilash (The Grayson School); Zach McWilliams (8 Chestnut) and James Curtis (Curtis Architecture + Design)

Winner: Ideas and Prototypes
People’s Choice: Ideas and Prototypes
AZ Awards 2021 Winner: Grayson Play-Lab

What should open-ended play look like? The Grayson Play-Lab by Matter Design offers a bold answer.

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