Namyangju, South Korea
“Kids are open machines of imagination,” states Jaime Hayón of Hayónstudio. “So, I just gave them tools to have fun, to see things, to see things through the drawings, to imagine that maybe that one of the drawings fell and became three-dimensional and that they can play with it.”
Jaime Hayón—the design world’s wizard of wit, whimsy, and wonder—was given free rein to conjure up a children’s playground, sculpture garden, and library for the Hyundai Museum of Kids’ Books & Art (MOKA), with a brief to encourage “nature literacy” among city dwellers.
The result is a project called “MOKA Play” which sees Hayon’s signature fanciful characterization—more usually lent to figurines, vases, and installations—let loose for playtime, and is set to enchant grown-ups and children alike.
The playground is populated by four colorful and captivating sculptural characters—a super-sized sausage dog, a trumpeting elephant, a giant llama, and a reposting Pinocchio-style figure with a seesaw balanced across its ankle.
Their rounded edges, slide tongues, and tunnel bellies invite clambering, creeping, and crawling.
Beneath a glass roof, amphitheater-style seating encloses the space and geometric shapes spill across the flooring and surrounds.
Wrapped around the upper walls is a mural of Hayón’s vivid sketches.
“It is really a crazy project all on its own,” says Hayón of his mural.
“I was in the middle of the lockdown in Spain, and I had a lot of time, and I started to draw on my terrace, very freely. These drawings were talking about evolution.”
The mural is also a chance for Hayón to share a glimpse of his design process; the evolution from two-dimensional sketch to three-dimensional creation is something he wonders if children may pick up on.
From there, families can stroll through to the calmer, more reflective space of the similarly glass-roofed but more neutral-toned Hayón Garden for some chill-out time.
Creature-shaped granite sculptures with brass details and a head-shaped fountain stand amid soothing planting.
One of the creatures, half-bird, half hut, conceals a café, another an educational space.
“Through the strength of the characters that populate the space, the garden proposes a path towards thought and emotion,” sums up Hayón.
“Gardens were built in the past to be areas where people could concentrate and come back to nature even for a few minutes in the day. If I think about what I like about classical gardens, I think we’re bringing that in a modern way into this one.”
Project: MOKA Play
Designers: Hayónstudio S.L.
Client: Hyundai Museum of Kids’ Books & Art (MOKA)