395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 374
Santa Monica, CA
The 21,000-square-foot Cayton Children’s Museum is a new multilevel experience curated to engage children with the physical world. OFFICEUNTITLED (formerly R&A Design), a Culver City, California–based firm, has designed a space for children to explore unhindered, as the nets, colorful palette, costume lockers, full-size helicopter and firetruck, and even a wall covered in pool noodles are all intended to spur tactile interaction without requiring constant adult supervision.
The museum is on the third floor of the open-air Santa Monica Place mall, an adaptive reuse project on the top floor of the Frank Gehry-designed building. Despite being titled as a children’s museum, the space provides a welcome respite for parents and children alike. However, if visitors walk past the enormous aardvark carved from plywood that houses the reception desk, they’ll find the “Courage Climber,” an entire level made from nets, which only children can access and that spans 20 percent of the museum’s footprint. Other architecturally scaled objects house the museum’s various non-exhibition programmatic elements such as ticketing and security, including the “Armadillo, Porcupine, Onion, Egg, Houses and Drum.”
The space is broken into five exhibition “neighborhoods” with distinct educational elements. Launch Your is a space for zero-to-two-year-old children to explore different topological arrangements through touch and is intended to help them strengthen their coordination. In Let’s Help, children can explore what it means to be a farmer, veterinarian, or first responder. The Together We section has been stocked with exhibitions meant to promote group activities and team building. In Reach for, visitors can stretch their legs and climb all over the web of nets. Finally, things slow down in Reflect On, where children are encouraged to take a more contemplative attitude about the world and consider how they can better connect with nature.
The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $14, but the museum will be free for low-income families during the first year.