Rodeph Sholom School Playground
(click to enlarge)
The roof playground was located against the parapet wall to allow space for chapel use. Trees in planters designed as part of the structure create a visual screen and soften the view from the chapel.
Roofs mimic those of surrounding buildings.
Sandbox and garden deck provide quiet area.
Sand box and garden deck
A story corner is tucked into the play structure.
The geometric plan allows the structure to veer around brick piers and create odd spaces for car play.
Ramps on both ends allow access to all kids.

This is a good example of an urban institution that is squeezed by multiple uses and over-scheduled spaces. A preschool, an elementary school and, at times, a religious school need play areas in a synagogue building with limited outdoor space, so care must be taken to accommodate many constituents.

The play area for the preschool shares a roof terrace with a new chapel, which needs open space for congregation overflow and social events. The architect requested that the design of the play structure be more formal than usual in order to maintain the dignity of the space when used for religious services. Meanwhile, the playground is heavily used by as many as 30 children at a time and must adhere to strict clearances. As so often happens, the complicated program and vigorous give and take led to a better plan than if the constraints were not as difficult to manage.

We created an undulating, geometric, linear play structure that hugged the parapet wall opposite the chapel to leave enough space for events. The play structure's roofs mimicked the copper-clad towers of the Beaux-Art apartment building across the street, a monument to formality the kids could happily ignore while playing completely innocent of the architectural conceit. A shady sitting garden, play house and sand box complex punctuates one end of the long terrace. Trees soften the view of the play structure from the chapel sanctuary.

All parties were happy with the results.