Play, Learn, Discover, Repeat: This Renovated Museum Engages Young Hearts, Hands, and Minds

News & Insights

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Metropolis / by Jessica Ritz / October 3, 2019

On a late morning weekday, decibel levels at the Cayton Children’s Museum strain tolerable levels for the noise-sensitive.

Every area of the 21,000-square-foot facility located at the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall — an early Frank Gehry project that’s subsequently been reimagined to adapt to a changing retail landscape — is already teeming with activity.

A toddler runs through a strip of slim posts in various shades of green that double as as donor plaques. The concept, dubbed the Generosity Garden, evokes an abstracted forest or blades of grass, and is built to be eye-catching and durable.

“Those moments, you plan for it,” Christian Robert, partner and cofounder of OfficeUntitled (formerly R&A Architecture & Design), says. It’s a design approach that applies to anything and everything that might happen in a place made for the newborn-to-10-year-old demographic.

The Cayton Children’s Museum by ShareWell, its nonprofit umbrella organization, is the second iteration of the Zimmer Children’s Museum that was founded by CEO Esther Netter thirty years ago. Its first home was a 5,000-square-foot space at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. Now the institution’s mission is advanced in a fresh setting, as well as a shift from its former overt ties to Judaism to a nondenominational philosophy that makes for a more inclusive environment.