As new Magical Bridge Playgrounds are slated to open in various California cities, we’ve added an important element to the design that will help make them even more inclusive to every body: retreat huts. These shelters are designed to be a refuge for any child or adult needing a break from the activity and noise of the playground, a particular concern for those on the autism spectrum.Like all our work, these huts are fabricated in our South San Francisco shop to be installed on-site later. Each hut is 8 feet in diameter, and made of high-quality sustainable redwood lumber.
To create the curved “ribs” that form the interior structure of these beautifully arched huts, we cut a redwood beam (in this case 4” x 6” pieces of redwood) into 5/8” thin strips. Then we create a buck (blocks of wood attached to a flat panel, as seen above) that is the correct radius for the curve we want. Finally, we glue the cut-up thin strips of lumber back together and clamp them to the buck.After 24 hours on the buck, we remove the wood. Not only does it now hold the desired shape but it has also become even stronger than the original piece of lumber we cut up! Eight of these curved pieces come together to form the shape of the retreat hut.
To create the walls, horizontal 1″ x 6″ redwood siding is fitted to the curved ribs and attached securely to 7 of the 8 sides. The eighth side is left open to create a wheelchair-accessible opening lined with wooden trim for more definition. The slats between the wood are carefully optimized to leave room for light and peeking out, but are too small to create a foothold, which might tempt children to try to climb the huts.