Museum de Valkhof Nijmegen

In between a doll's house and a toy garage

The design for the playhouse is based on children’s drawings of dream houses that register the latent yearnings for an ideal living environment. Notably the spaces that do not fully participate in formal home life, such as the cellar and the attic, hold great attraction for children. As a homo ludens optima forma, a child declares the house a toy and living a game. Domestic elements are repeatedly given a new role in new adventures, whereby scale and abstraction levels play no role whatsoever. The domestic environment is constantly re-interpreted and semantic bridges built if required. In the playhouse children’s perceptions of the environment unfold in which domestic scenes are transformed into an adventure playground. This mental model, in which living is shaped through the eyes of children, stimulates the metaphorical use of the parental home. The playhouse forms, in fact, the synthesis between a playhouse and a toy garage, thereby fusing the normally divided fantasy worlds of boys and girls. The model is largely assembled from life size homes, garden and kitchenware, whereby some elements in the context of the new scale have acquired new significance. The letterbox turns out to be a garage door and the draught strip a laundrette. Coat hooks are found to be comfortable armchairs, while a broom functions as a hedge. A rubber wheel is set in motion by means of a handle that drives four dynamos that feed four lamps in the house. In short, the playhouse is a home for Barbie dolls, soldiers, cars and animals and consequently the most improbable scenes which formal architecture fails to accommodate.


The playhouse is owned by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and preserved by the Netherlands Architecture Institute

in cooperation with
Urban Affairs



Stichting voor Kunst en Cultuur Gelderland


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