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Balfour Brickner Early Childhood Center's Roof Top Play, New York City

Photo: May and Watkins DesignMay and Watkins Design designed, fabricated and installed a custom play structure for Balfour Brickner Early Childhood Center at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City called Roof Top Play. The 15-foot-tall, 50-foot-long, 10-foot-wide play structure was constructed for primary recess activity in an open area on the building's roof. Roof Top Play was powdercoated in RAL colors including Blue-Green, Vermillion, Neon Lime, Sky Blue and Yellow Ochre.

May and Watkins Design fabricated components in-plant in sections that fit through a 6-foot, 8-inch by 3-foot door. "We built it in pieces with the idea of fitting through a tight space, then took it apart to send out for power-coating," says Tim Watkins, partner at May and Watkins Design.

May and Watkins Design fabricated the framing for the metal shapes with Penn Stainless Products' schedule 40 black pipe, which is often used for plumbing. The pipe pieces were fitted and the pipe assembly went to a galvanizer followed by a powder-coater.

Watkins says the rust-resistant qualities of galvanized black pipe and stainless steel provide longevity for the play structure. "The entire system is designed to last as long as possible," he says.

May and Watkins Design installed more than nine sheets of McNICHOLS Co.'s stainless steel perforated metal on approximately 200 square feet of components. Carol May, partner at May and Watkins Design, says her firm frequently uses stainless steel perforated metal. "It provides the look that we want, and it has durability and strength," she says.

May and Watkins Design specified the perforated metal with openings small enough to prevent catching small fingers. The perforated metal has a staggered pattern of 1/4-inch round holes on 3/8th-inch centers and a 40 percent open area.

Additionally, May and Watkins Design installed McNICHOLS' Traction Tread for the flooring system with the rough side facing up. The Traction Tread is 11-gauge plain, hot-rolled steel with a mill-finish surface and 4 percent open area. The surface was covered with 3/4-inch, poured-in-place rubber composite for safety.

Roof Top Play is for children 3 to 5 years old and was designed to develop children's gross and fine motor skills as well as provide a sculptural experience. It features a climbing net, crawl tube, firemen pole, monkey bars, ring climb, rope climb, slide, lily pad steps and talk tubes, which send sounds of voices from one end of the play structure to the other. The custom play structure has stops in between including peep-through sections, a bridge and musical zone with chimes. "It is a fantasy space," Watkins says.

May and Watkins Design worked with many specialists including the center's staff and experts in early childhood development. The firm created concept sketches, a sketch model and final model, plans, elevations and construction drawings for the project, which was completed in 2015.

"Working collaboratively with this team of designers was inspiring," says Lori Schneider, director at Balfour Brickner Early Childhood Center. "They were able to understand our pedagogical philosophy and translate it into a magical place for children to develop their physical strength, take age-appropriate risks and foster their imaginations."

Architect/fabricator/installer: May and Watkins Design, New York City,
Metal pipe: Penn Stainless Products, Quakertown, Pa.,
Perforated metal: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla.,

Photo: May and Watkins Design