The Children’s Inn at NIH’s Play Park Receives Award from the Maryland Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

BETHESDA, Maryland (May 1, 2014) – Mahan Rykiel Associates (MRA), the design firm for The Children’s Inn at NIH’s Play Park was recognized with an Honor award from the Maryland Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The Baltimore based landscape architecture, urban design, and planning firm was brought into the project by Poltronieri Tang & Associates, a firm specializing in pediatric healthcare planning and design.

The Children’s Inn provides a home away from home for pediatric patients and their families at NIH. The Play Park project involved redeveloping an outdoor space for these patients, their siblings, and caregivers-­‐-­‐accommodating active and passive functions, creating enriching play areas for a variety of age groups, and providing respite space for families and staff.

“The new play area offers our children and their families a real chance to enjoy the outdoors, and when children have an opportunity to play, they also have an opportunity to heal,” said Kathy Russell, The INN’s CEO.

Lydia Kimball, PLA, Principal and project manager at Mahan Rykiel said, “It was truly a collaborative effort; it involved a group of very talented partners and volunteers, working together to realize a very special project.”

Solving drainage problems and reducing the grade change between the outdoor area and the building provided the opportunity and catalyst for redesign of the play space. Lead designer Alice Jones, PLA, said, “ Now as soon as you walk in and see out those floor-­‐to-­‐ceiling windows, you know there’s something cool out there.” Outdated play equipment and lack of shade in the old play garden also contributed to limited use by the kids.

Mahan Rykiel prepared concept plans; researched special play elements, incorporated donated materials/services, and provided installation support. The designers were mindful to include these priorities in the layout and selection of materials, but were also challenged to do that in ways that would be appealing across cultures, age groups and physical abilities. The specific nature of the site ownership required collaboration and coordination between the two entities responsible for the building and site – the Federal NIH, and the private, non-­‐profit Children’s Inn. Finally, flexibility in scheduling and construction was critical, as products and services changed throughout the project as new donations were offered.

The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Awards Program serves to encourage professional excellence in Maryland by recognizing significant completed and un-­‐built landscape architectural projects. The objective is to bring public attention to the outstanding services of landscape architects by honoring them with professional awards for projects that demonstrate a superior quality of design and execution. The award was selected by a jury of peers and presented at an awards ceremony in Baltimore on April 24, 2014. For more information about Mahan Rykiel Associates, go to


The Children’s Inn at NIH is a residential “place like home” for up to 59 seriously ill children and their families who stay together while participating in groundbreaking medical treatments at the NIH, the world’s leading biomedical research center. While the NIH takes care of the child’s medical needs, The Inn tends to the child’s heart, soul and spirit. Families stay at The Inn free of charge, no matter how long.