Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Noah's Ark

The ark feels spacious, capturing the vast scale of the real ark, which would have been bigger than a football field.
by Jamee Gregory

Want to share an unforgettable Los Angeles adventure with the child in your life? Do what we did and sign up for a visit to Noah's Ark at Skirball Cultural Center at 2701 N. Sepulveda.

Take a journey together in this 8,000-square foot gallery that took five years to create. Inspired by the ancient story of the flood, this destination invites visitors to connect with each other, learn about community and perhaps build a better world.

Inside this wooden ark families build, play, climb, explore, and make music and art. Fancifully painted animals, constructed from recycled objects and everyday materials, are hand-crafted and engaging. Built in consultation with Moshe Safdie, the architect who designed Skirball, Olsen Kundig Allen Architects from Seattle won a competition to create the space.
Samantha and Carolina in the garden at the Skirball Cultural Center. Entering Noah's Ark, with Peter leading the way.
Their design allows visitors to touch, feel and explore, with cranks, pulleys, climbing walls, crawl spaces, and catwalks. No instructions are needed, as guests move through the space. The animals are designed to appeal to children and adults alike. Brooklyn-based artist Christopher M. Green and designers at Lexington crafted the exhibits and over 400 fanciful animals, using things like surgical tubing that resembles pasta for quills on a hedgehog and thimbles for eyes, using only sustainable and durable materials, like fans for owl wings and catcher's mitts for turtle shells.

We arrived on an unusually gloomy afternoon and were at once entranced by this fantastic creation. Children of all ages enter the ark, touching, feeling and interacting. Wide-eyed, kids are enchanted by the brilliantly made animals and the freedom to play.
Majestic elephants march along the walls, creating a fabulous illusion of space. An image from the gallery walls by Ed Andrews of Somelab, a life-size silhouette of animals on the move.
Carolina, sporting her own stripes, was mesmerized by the Asian elephant that greets visitor's at the entrance. Made of almost all Asian materials, including a gong from Thailand, steamers from Laos, handmade Lokta paper from Nepal and bronze Thai rain drums engraved with decorative elephants, these animals are mesmerizing. The deer have shoehorn ears. The chic zebras are construcyed from keyboards and wind turbines.
There are no labels yet children instinctively explore the magical space, entirely made of wood, as it was in the bible. They touch, hear and feel the exhibits as well as see them.
Children can perch on the animals. Carolina just fits in between the the camel's humps.
Youngsters scramble through rope-covered tunnels, dash inside play houses, set tables with fruits and pots, carry vegetables from room to room, sit in swings, and speak to one another in a civilized manner.

Only 25 children enter at once, allowing them to explore and relate, pausing as long as they wish. The colorful animals are so beguiling, that it takes time to appreciate their construction. Exhibits allow children to create lightening by turning handles, and watch the fireworks. Everywhere one looks there is some object to capture one's fancy. Each room is full of adventures.
There is so much to look at! Children of all ages love the giant giraffe. By pushing pedals with their arms children can generate energy to create a storm on a screen.
Birds soar overhead.
This exhibit encourages kids to touch everything.
Parents and children share the experience. A small house made of corn cobs attracts Carolina.
Adults are intrigued as well.
Kids speak to one another as they play, following their individual interests. I don't think I have ever visited such an original and fascinating exhibit. It gave me as much pleasure as it did my 19-month-old granddaughter, Carolina, my husband Peter and my daughter, Samantha.

Each of us found surprise, wonder and a new appreciation for the story of Noah's Ark. At the end of the experience, children and adults sat at a large table and are given craft paper in the shape of an ark and crayons. Everyone left with their own personal rendition of the adventure. It really was thrilling to see such an imaginative space for intelligent and creative learning and play. I can't wait to go back.
Natural sustainable materials make the exhibits seem real.
Wherever one looks fanciful animals catch the eye.
The ceiling is studded with giant birds.
A view of the last room before entering the art space The crawl-throughs are the most fun for older children. They are safe, as well!
Kids can hide! Crawling is good exercise.
Cooking, swinging, and resting.
Drawing in the art room. Making a souvenir.
Making a friend.