A wind powered outdoor play surface that encourages open-ended play.
Lawnscape is a velcro-lined play surface that provides hands-on free play and learning for kids. The collection of green structural hoops and wind catching fabric panels allows children to follow their curiosity through play. This is the final culmination of my Industrial Design senior thesis at RISD. Cas Holman and Paolo Cardini were both a huge help in guiding me through this project!
3 moths // 2018
While out on a walk in my neighborhood, I came across this giant tarp that was rippling in the wind. There was a group of kids running across it, finding their own ways to explore and play with it.
The kids were using the tarp as a tool to enhance their imagination. They didn’t need any instruction manual or set of rules to have a meaningful play experience. I was motivated by the open-ended nature of this tarp and wanted to see if I could recreate it in the form of a wind-powered play surface that can be built on top of.
These are some sketches from the early ideation stage. These helped to inform the next stage of the process: rapid prototyping to test the concepts.
The sketches led me to test out different material manipulation techniques. I tried creating different construction methods with fabric to see what interacted with the wind most effectively.
The initial prototyping tests were created using tarp, wooden dowels, wire rods and fabric.
I quickly learned what shapes worked best for catching the wind. I dove deeper into developing those construction methods so that children would be able to quickly assemble and disassemble them.
Using a combination of velcro, cardboard, thin acrylic strips, and some slide release buckles, I developed a system for building quick 3D structures.
Once I had a basic skeleton form for the fabric structures, I established the size of the base tarp itself. It had to be big enough for at least 2-3 kids to run around and play on, but small enough that it could be rolled up and easily transported to the car/garage/next location.
With a more fully fleshed out prototype concept developed, I returned to the drawing process to try and visualize how children might be able to interact with the play surface. The goal was for them to feel empowered to build and guide their own play experience.
Before taking Lawnscape to user testing, I created a new iteration of the prototype that took into account the latest updates that were made. I also worked on developing a system for rolling the play surface up into a backpack that can be carried easily.
The next phase of the design process was to test out the prototype with users. I laid out the latest prototype in preparation for user testing with Nora (age 7) and Petra (age 10)!
I learned many things from the user testing. One major discovery was that the play does not always have to occur on top of the tarp. The fabric panels make it easy for kids to explore the wind from anywhere!
When children are playing on Lawnscape, they are constructing knowledge about wind power and renewable energy. The process of play keeps them actively engaged and more likely to remember what they’ve learned.
Kids often find their own ways to play and discover. Lawnscape was designed as a tool for enhancing those self-initiated explorations. There are no specific instructions, but rather a combination of parts that invite the user to interact with it and guide their own experience.
Learn more about how it works in the video below!