Programme: children should have the opportunity for play during holy masses in the church
There are many young parents in the community of the Sacred Heart Jesuit Church located in the 8th District of Budapest, who willingly take part in the programs of the church together with their children. With the aim to fulfil the needs of this particular audience, a room was built some years ago in the southern aisle of the building, where small children could play with toys during liturgical programmes. Local leadership of the Society of Jesus commissioned us to rethink the existing state of the room and suggest a refurbishment effectively adaptable to the needs of its users and the environment represented by the temple.
Challenge: the magistery of a historic sacred public building and the freedom of play
We defined three issues to be settled during the design process. The first and most spectacular issue related to the very narrow dimensions of the room that incited us to make as much area accessible for play as possible, while providing the required amount of storage as well.
The second one was the experience that the existing floor did not provide adequate heat and comfort to be used as a space for play. Nevertheless, we sought for means of how to provide a continuous flat surface for children, where they can move freely.
The third issue did not concern use but the relationship between the built environment and the furnishing: common types of furniture that are usually present in dwellings would have given the impression of being misplaced and out-of-scale in an interior with vaulted ceiling, complex geometry and high vertical dimensions. Thus we needed to develop tools for the intervention capable of taking into consideration the circumstance that the space for play was to be located in a temple.
Based on the above mentioned issues we came up with the following design question: how can a space inside the church be created, where the accustomed behavioral norms are replaced by free movement and play, while at the same time the physical and mental environment of the historic temple also becomes a livable experience?
Project: softening the temple with a modular foam landscape
We wanted to ensure the comfort of the children and their parents as well as the storing of the toys without implementing conventional furniture, but let the architecture of the historic church prevail. We designed a surface of use that filled the whole floor area of the room that consisted of upholstered cuboids made of foam and storage boxes with the same outfit. The hardness of the foam elements provided adequately solid surface for playing with toys, while their dimensions of width, length and height made them suitable to function as sitting furniture as well. The units are easily movable, so various arrangements can be built simply. So the intervention provided not only a new elevated floor level, where kids can play, but the installation itself became a toy as well. At the same time the interior of the church remained untouched. This is the way the landscape made of foam elements tries to balance between the eternal stability of the building and the ever changing dynamic space of play.