Authors : Jessica Ordaz-Garcia and Stephanie Tager

University : Syracuse University, New York

Status : BArch, May 2016

Advisor : Molly Hunker

Title : Wonderland | An Architectural Interpretation of Children’s Literature

Wonderland: An Architectural Interpretation of Children’s Literature is a 2016 thesis project by Jessica Ordaz-Garcia and Stephanie Tager, advised by Professor Molly Hunker. This thesis was awarded the Syracuse University 2016 Ralph T. Walker Travel Prize and James A. Britton Memorial Award for Best Thesis.

Imagine…that the place you learn and the lands of your favorite children’s book were one and the same. The product would allow for a learning environment of wonder and fantasy to re-define how we learn and how a space teaches. By architecturally crafting fictional landscapes into a new, innovative and didactic learning environment, creativity and imagination can be cultivated.

Alice in Wonderland, Goodnight Moon, Green Eggs and Ham – they all have a lesson to their stories and to their narratives. But, what if you were to strip away the words, and instead tap into the landscapes, the rooms, or the spaces…what becomes the lesson of the architecture?

With that question in mind, this thesis analyzes the fantasy environments found within sixteen of the best-selling children’s books of all time. Realizing that spatial qualities found within existing didactic architecture are also found within these books…but in a more extreme imaginative way.   

Feel free to refer to our architectural take on the ABCs as you wander through Wonderland. The didactic and spatial qualities found within children’s literature is synthesized into the architecture. The ABCs become a recipe to design a didactic architecture that still reflects the elements from those same enchanted plots.

Now, welcome to Wonderland, a place that serves as an additional learning tool to existing conventional schools. The building however, is not only an educational environment – it integrates educational environments alongside other programs, exposing any and everyone to the playful moments found within.

You can get there by first going to The High Line in Manhattan… as you walk along the necklace of atypical architectures, you will ultimately arrive to Wonderland, between 17th and 18th St.

At Wonderland, students from 0 to 18 years old are welcome to enroll in group or individual classes that range from the arts, languages, sciences and more.

So, let’s say you are interested in furthering your knowledge in music. When you arrive, take the Funnel Tunnel up to your scheduled music class. Pick your favorite color, and your respective elevator will not only expose the structure of that elevator, but you can get a glimpse of the mechanics located at the heart of the building’s core. This will subconsciously teach you about physics, mechanics, and parts to whole.

Or perhaps you need some help with your math classes. You can schedule a private lesson and learn about mathematics and geometry while you play a fun game of “The Floor is Lava.” Now, the rules of “The Floor is Lava” apply to anything and everything – the tables, the chairs, nothing touches the floor. You can push and pull the furniture together or apart, all depending on your needs or the classroom’s needs.  
This was just a brief introduction to Wonderland. There are a wide variety of classes and spatial characteristics that redefine how one learns through architecture.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Jessica Ordaz-Garcia and Stephanie Tager_ By merging architecture and children’s literature, the product allows for these environments and atmospheres of wonder and fantasy to work together to teach through an intrinsic abstraction of the stories. By architecturally crafting fictional landscapes, creativity and imagination can be cultivated in spaces of learning. These possible collaborations between the environments of children’s literature and built design can produce worlds that are somewhat familiar while also still being fantastical – a combination which acts as a new architectural tool to encourage critical thinking and creativity.
A narrative and sequence driven architecture can redesign and redefine the way a learning environment communicates itself, and do so in the most eccentric way – through realizing the fantastical, dreamy, and imaginative discoveries of make-believe worlds.
Additionally, the success of this project would not have been possible without the help of Professor Molly Hunker.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
JOG + ST_ We are interested in the arts, music, and literature (of course!).

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
JOG + ST_ At the end of the day, do something you are passionate about and you will succeed.

S//A : Describe your dream project
JOG + ST_ Continuing to develop Wonderland, as well as researching the different ways that literature can influence architecture.