San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

What if kids could build a city?

From the print edition

Respect and care for private and public spaces where humans coexist is the theme of a new exhibit under construction at the Children’s Museum. Sponsored by the Association of Engineers and Architects and the separate Architects’ Association, seven architects and two engineers are designing the “Built Environment” room, where kids will be given the tools to build their own city.

When completed around this time next year, projected audio and video will surround visitors with a clash of images and sounds, including falling water, crashing waves and wind in the trees. More cacophonous sounds will include honking traffic, jackhammers and car engines. The room’s floor will change colors and shapes when walked on.

The exhibit’s main room will lead outside to an open-air structure composed mostly of bamboo. Here visitors will find a continual mural where kids can write, paint and draw ideas of what they’d like to see in their “city.” For five years, the room will continuously change based on kids’ ideas, and they can build their own city with mobile blocks and columns, and horizontal, vertical and leaning structures. 

Architect and project coordinator Ana Carolina Pizarro is very experienced in working with children and architecture. She has executed numerous rooms in the museum as well as workshops around the country. 

Petty theft is a crime she wishes to alter with experiences in the new room. One of the rooms she designed at the museum has a giant book with pages kids can turn, toy blocks that fit into the pages and headphones to hear the story. The headphones have been stolen three times, even when they were bolted to the wall.

“This isn’t the children stealing the headphones, it’s the adults,” she said. “I hope [the new] room can foster a little more respect for our surroundings. I’ll not likely live to see it, but we need to establish these values when people are young.”

Bernal Castillo, another architect working on the project, said much of the research and inspiration came from workshops held across the country. These workshops featured plays and discussions about respecting and caring for one’s urban, communal places. Kids received materials to build their own cities with boxes, cups, paper-towel tubes and other items. 

One child posted a sign on a cardboard tree asking for a happy city. Another asked for a city full of trees and animals. A third asked for a city with more dark-skinned people. 

“It’s always surprising what kids ask for,” Pizarro said. “These are the children’s voices, and we should listen. They are the actual designers of this space.”

Castillo said he would study kids’ reactions to the room when it’s completed.

“I hope it will become a favorite room in the museum,” he said. “It’s an ambitious project, but we are really enthusiastic and are working hard to make it a reality.”

But the two architect associations have raised only 60 percent of the project’s cost of $250,000. To help reach their goal, The Tico Times has joined the associations in a fundraising campaign. The Tico Times is offering its readers subscriptions to the Online Edition for $12 per year, with half of all proceeds to be donated to the Children’s Museum project. The Association of Engineers and Architects is offering the special subscription rate to its 18,000 associates as well. 

If you already have a subscription, you can renew at the special rate; just specify “Children’s Museum Project” with your renewal. Individuals and companies are also welcome to donate subscriptions.

If you’d like to contribute or need more info, please call The Tico Times marketing department at 2258-1558 or email Kathia Coto at

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