Architecture for kids: a play minihotel

A playful space, a miniature city: in Moshe Safdie's iconic hotel in Jerusalem, Israeli designer Sarit Shani Hay's project makes room for the little ones.

This article was originaly published on Domus 1058, june 2021.

Two reference points guided Sarit Shani Hay in her latest child-centric design: enlarging the play area in the basement of a well-known hotel in Jerusalem. On the one hand, elaborating existing spaces: the hotel’s iconic architecture, designed by Moshe Safdie in 1998, and the minimal, refined interiors made by Piero Lissoni in 2011. On the other hand, dialoguing with the history of the Old City outside. The challenge here was to offer an environment that could be versatile enough to be fun for kids and teens arriving from all over the world and of different ages, between 2 and 18. The Israeli artist and designer, who since opening her studio in Tel Aviv in 1995 has created many spaces for children and in this same hotel had already designed a small play area back in 2011, was asked by the client to come up with a much larger kids club, from 100 to 400 m2, so they could offer better hospitality to their young guests. 

Foto Roni Cnaani
The kids club offers a mini replica of the Mahane Yehuda Market, which in Jerusalem gathers stands and shops, while the niches along the walls provide intimate spaces. Photo Roni Cnaani

With the conviction that “the environment children grow up in is essential to their sensitivity”, for this project Shani Hay opted for two separate areas, with customised functions based on the age group. For the small kids area, closed off by wooden panels with geometric decorations, soft and playful drawers prevail, plus some miniature references to Jerusalem, like the Mahane Yehuda Market and the Montifiore Windmill, and the city’s main symbol – a lion – engraved on the furniture and the wooden walls. 

Instead, for teens the design focused on some specific activities – a billiard table, a small space for football, a multimedia room with computers and videogames – to allow them to exercise, have fun and let off steam, even indoors. Natural wood predominates here, while the pastel colour palette is intentionally limited to avoid overstimulation and to help create a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The entire wall is covered with niches, which evoke the arches found throughout the hotel and offer more cocooned, intimate spaces. An oversized keyhole invites kids and teens to pass from one area to the other.

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