A Physics in Action Play Space (With a Touch of Magic)
On the beautiful Saturday afternoon of November 13, 2021, Magical Bridge Foundation participated in its first zoo and museum playground grand opening. Together with city, county and state leaders, Magical Bridge Foundation announced and celebrated the opening of CuriOdyssey’s Whooosh!, a physics and action playground designed by Magical Bridge Foundation and built for children and adults of all abilities and disabilities. A passion project for the Foundation and Founder Olenka Villarreal, this all-inclusive museum playground opened with fanfare and sentiments from CuriOdyssey’s Executive Director Aragon Burlingham, San Mateo County District 2 Supervisor Carole Groom, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, among others.
Joining Olenka on the speaker podium was her longtime friend and CuriOdyssey Board Chair Laurel Miranda. Both women were the driving forces behind uniting these two organizations as a way to promote the creation of more inclusive spaces in their communities. With daughters who are now 18 years old, Olenka and Laurel met in a preschool program which marked the beginning of their lives as parents of two children – one with and and one without a disability. Over the years, they have advocated for more programs and spaces to be welcoming to families like theirs and those who represent the 1 in every 4 of us who are living with visible or invisible disabilities. The addition of Whooosh! amplifies the already thoughtful and engaging programs at CuriOdyssey by offering a welcoming place for movement and outdoor fun.
Nestled under mature pine trees and situated next to the zoo and museum, the new playground overlooks the bay and is fully equipped with a multigenerational swing zone, slide mound, spin zone, and Hideaway Hut by Barbara Butler for those needing some quiet time. Thoughtfully designed for the available 5600 square feet, this magical space shows what is possible when applying Magical Bridge’s universal design principles to incorporate the unique needs of every visitor at every stage of life.
Magical Bridge Foundation was launched in 2016 with Olenka Villarreal and Jill Asher to create custom Magical Bridge Playgrounds and spaces throughout the Bay Area and worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the mission of Magical Bridge Foundation is to advocate for, design and build playgrounds and parks for children and adults of all ages, abilities, and sizes. At the core, Magical Bridge Foundation creates outdoor spaces that welcome everyone, at every stage of life. Redefining inclusive and recreational play opportunities through truly innovative design, Magical Bridge playgrounds and parks far exceed industry standards by removing physical and social barriers still present in most traditional designs. Through advocacy and programs both on and off the playground, Magical Bridge promotes kindness and ignites vital intergenerational connections that build more inclusive communities. Magical Bridge Foundation is currently working on playgrounds, parks, schools, and museum projects throughout the Bay Area and worldwide.
For the past two years, the foundation has been working with CuriOdyssey Museum and Zoo to imagine and design a play space for all their visitors. Along with partners Sares Regis Group, Whiting-Turner, Iverson Group, Barbara Butler, San Mateo County government and county park officials, and City of San Mateo officials, our team dreamed big and designed a place for every visitor to enjoy.
Whooosh! is the inaugural installation of a new CuriOdyssey campus to create a world-class destination for early science learning in San Mateo County. CuriOdyssey opened the $2 million playground on November 13, 2021 and plans to break ground in spring 2022 on a new Bay Building which will feature an exhibit gallery, two new learning labs and a sweeping view of the bay. The Bay Building will be the next step in creating a new 8-building campus that re-imagines CuriOdyssey for the 21st century.
Our favorite and most MAGICAL picture from the grand opening – Robert, Ava, and Olenka Villarreal. Ava is the “spark” for Magical Bridge Playgrounds. She is the force behind our work and while nonverbal, sends a loud and clear message that everyone deserves and needs a safe and fun place to play. Olenka brings Ava to the CuriOdyssey Museum and Zoo often because it joyfully welcomes Ava and families like theirs. Ava’s favorite “Magical Bridge” is now at the CuriOdyssey museum and she hopes you will enjoy it as well.
Magical Bridge Foundation selects a few playground projects to work on each year. If your museum, zoo, hospital, school or park is interested in potentially creating an all-inclusive Magical Bridge space of your own, kindly complete this form. Magical Bridge would love to learn more about your project.
Designed by Magical Bridge Foundation, here are a few images of Whooosh!