Corvus Design Blog

December 22, 2010

Astronomical “Play”

When we consider what we call “complete play”, experiential learning is as important to us as the more typically considered “active” components. A few nights ago, many of us experienced the lunar eclipse. When these events happen, they’re an amazing opportunity for some pretty exciting learning. This got us to thinking about how we’ve seen a number of designs where the artist or designer adds components to get us thinking about our planet, and what’s out beyond our planet.

December 20th, 2010 Lunar Eclipse

So, one of the places that we know of that really helps us experience our relationship with astonomy is Jantar Mantar.

From Wikipedia: “The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja (King) Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. It is modeled after the one that he had built for him at the Mughal capital of Delhi. He had constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these. It has been inscribed on the World Heritage List as “an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period”.”

When we look at this, we see so many opportunities for play areas and design in general.

Another personal favorite, of the “land art” persuasion is James Turrel’s Roden Crater.

From Wikipedia: “The artist James Turrell, for his Land art project, acquired the 400,000-year-old, 3-mile-wide (4.8 km) crater’s land. Turrell has since been transforming the inner cone of the crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing and experiencing sky-light, solar, and celestial phenomena. The fleeting Winter and Summer equinox events will be highlighted.”

 We’ve seen things like this incorporated into Childrens’ Gardens and playscapes as simply as a sundial where a kid can be the gnomen (pointer), or through viewing tubes that call particular attention to objects. The key is to sneak in there and make the knowledge fun and desirable to gain.