Madison Children's Museum
Madison, Wisconsin

Making the WilderNest | Water Exhibits | Hodge Podge Mahal | Tinkerer's Workshop | Roof Top | Log Cabin

In 1999, Design Coalition helped the Madison Children's Museum (MCM) create it's award-winning First Feats exhibit (see photos below), which celebrates the first years of a child's life with a homey feel and a safe environment full of rich experiences. It was the first such exhibit in the nation to accomplish this with artistic and natural, non-toxic materials throughout.

In August 2010, Madison Children's Museum opened it's new museum. The new early-learning exhibit is about four times larger. It has a new name - the WilderNest - but has the same goals.

The WilderNest exemplifies the concept of MCM's exhibits as practical art. There is integration between careful age-appropriate design for children, high artistic quality by local craftspeople, and thoroughgoing sustainability. Locally-sourced, recycled, re-used and creatively re-crafted elements are to be found throughout.

The WilderNest is designed as a community at a child's scale, complete with buildings arranged around a "village square". Above, from left to right: the Stone Grotto, the Music Hut, the Dress-up Hut and the Water Dome.
Below, from left to right: Baby Nest and Troll Bridge, and overhead the Treehouse and Crow's Nest, connected via the suspended Skeleton Bridge.


How do you provide a challenging, but still reasonably safe, rock-climbing experience for young children? Answer: horizontally. We took advantage of a five-foot level change between the floors, and the Museum chose a well-padded natural wool landing surface.

Skeleton Bridge
Traversing the Skeleton Bridge, hanging from the sky-ceiling. One Museum staffer described our design, "as if the villagers had re-purposed a giant cyborg snake as a skywalk". The railing balusters of the Crow's Nest are among the many elements that were re-used from former Museum exhibits.


From the first design meetings to the rush to finish construction for opening day, the WilderNest was almost three years in the making. Click to see the process...

First Feats ~ The original award-winning exhibit

Above and below: The original First Feats exhibit at the former Children's Museum on State Street
opened in April of 1999.

Making the WilderNest | Water Exhibits | Hodge Podge Mahal | Tinkerer's Workshop | Roof Top | Log Cabin

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