Cayton Children's Museum

For client: ShareWell Floor area: 1950.96 M² Year of completion: 2019
Submitted for: Cultural Space of the Year

Paul Vu Dsc9241
© Paul Vu

Theater Room

About the Project

Bringing play indoors, the Cayton Children’s Museum was designed as a series of unexpected spaces that inspire kids to learn about and engage in their community. The 20,095 SF museum adaptively reuses part of the upper floor of Santa Monica Place, a retail center originally designed by Frank Gehry, by transforming a former artisanal food hall into the home of a Museum dedicated to the imagination and wonderment of being a kid.

Imagined as an inclusive space for free and safe discovery, the museum’s non-linear design relies on a network of freestanding, tactile objects purposefully sited to frame portions of the five exhibit neighborhoods while not revealing the entirety of the museum’s total offerings at once. The free plan approach affords each visitor the opportunity to chart their own “Path of Awesome” through the more than 30 exhibits focused on helping kids play their way to a better world.

What’s unique about it

What is a Children’s Museum?

Innovation, like the formation of diamonds, happens because of sheer force. Professions are constantly borrowing from each other to be innovative (i.e. fashion, aerospace) because sometimes solutions work more effectively when they’re removed from their original context. What is a children’s museum is a question we kept asking over-and-over-and-over. In fact, it means nothing. Rather than cross pollinate a few ideas, we took a completely different approach; to radically reshuffle the typical rules of design (and project type) and create something undeniably new.

Children think differently. In fact, they have zero rules or zero universal preconceptions. That’s what a children’s museum should be. It should be a place where there’s no gravity and no rules, but where everything is active play, interaction and immersive but that also teaches community, social skills and love.

This is what architecture should be. Our hope is that like the doors of perception, the innovation here is not just for show, but because of a deep love of design, experience, space and impart that love and passion into the minds of everyone who visits (parents included).

Paul Vu Dsc8480
© Paul Vu

Art Rooms, entry to office space and Confetti Tube exhibit

Paul Vu Dsc8210
© Paul Vu

Helicopter and My Community Exhibit

Paul Vu Dsc9393
© Paul Vu

Mirror Tunnel Exhibit

Paul Vu Dsc9323
© Paul Vu

Entry to Offices

Paul Vu Dsc8392
© Paul Vu

Children playing at Water Table Exhibit

Paul Vu Dsc8127
© Paul Vu

Children playing in “Launch Your” exhibit zone for 0-2 yrs old

Paul Vu Dsc8047
© Paul Vu

Children climbing up the “zipper” entry to the Net Climber and running past Armadillo

Paul Vu Dsc7996
© Paul Vu

Child jumping in Aqua Rescue ball pit with Net Climber above



Walter P. Moore

Altitude Design Office

S2 Associates Inc.

Are you sure?

Remember that you can only vote once per award category.