Play Perch is a treehouse-cum-classroom designed by Syracuse University School of Architecture students and installed in the grounds of Jowonio School, Syracuse, New York. It was built in order to provide Jowonio's pupils – almost one third of whom have special needs – a safe and tranquil environment to interact with nature.
The grounds of Jowonio preschool contain a nature trail which the school's staff feel is therapeutic for children with ADD and related conditions. It was decided that a classroom located in the vicinity of the nature trail could offer a beneficial environment for the young pupils. Therefore, Syracuse University School of Architectures' AIAS Freedom By Design group was tasked to help bring this about.
Play Perch is based around an old tree and supported by six splayed pairs of columns arranged into a V shape. The overall design of the structure is inspired by both the Eastern Bluebird (the state bird of New York and Missouri), and the Imperial Walker of Star Wars fame. Its outer shell is constructed from copper and rusted steel sheets, with perforations which are modeled after the feathers of a bird.
The platform measures roughly 12 x 20 ft (3.5 x 6 m), and the roof of Play Perch features polycarbonate panels with steel supports. Gutters overhang to allow the children to watch rainwater running off and falling below.
Inside, a climbing net stretches across the opening between the floor and the tree, and toys, tunnels, and an LED-lit cove all help to create an inclusive environment which children of all abilities can enjoy together.