The Cave: Education Pavilion & Orientation Theater - CODAworx

The Cave: Education Pavilion & Orientation Theater

Submitted by Architecture Is Fun, Inc.

Client: Young At Art Museum

Location: Davie, FL, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $250,000

Project Team


Peter Exley, FAIA

Architecture Is Fun, Inc.


Sharon Exley, MAAE Associate ASID

Architecture Is Fun, Inc. Fun Finders

Art Consultant

Sharon Exley, MAAE

Fun Finders


Mindy Shrago, Director, Young At Art


Tracey Dear

Dear Productions


The Cave is the intriguing portal to Young At Art, an innovative museum bridging art and children’s exploration. The faceted structure is clad with super white matte surfacing, designed to express mystery and discovery, enclosure and aperture, the ancient and the new. Drawn inside an intimate 250SF interior, visitors make their mark analogous to early cave painting, using body-sized pin-presses and inscribing foil wall panels. An artist-commissioned video supercharges the cave as an immersive 4-D flipbook of flashing imagery, dynamic shifts of color, and explosive score that places young artists in the continuum of art history.


Named by the Knight Foundation “as one of the most transformative arts initiatives in South Florida”, the Young At Art Museum and its cross-disciplinary design team assessed critical factors for the success of artful learning and play. During envisioning, the first marks of a modern cave began to appear on the museum floor plans. It was essential that this initial museum experience be the paradigm-shaper, that it use art for learning, that it commission artwork, and that it transform what could have been the ubiquitous orientation gallery into a powerful portal of projected imagery and flashing color. The design team brought frequent collaborator Tracey Dear on as the Cave Artist. Together, they used the openness, content and copyright issues, tight intimacy, irregular faceted interior, developmental appropriateness, and educational goals as program opportunities, rather than obstacles. As a result, the mysterious art cave inspires young artists to make their mark analogous to the first cave painting and by doing so they become part of the journey of art history that flashes on the screen. The Cave with its commissioned 4D rock and roll timeline of art history is a visible demonstration of the museum’s overarching goal to use art for learning.


The designers and the socially-inventive museum reached out to curators, made numerous visits to Art Basel, and sought out frequent collaborators to aid in their research of artists, whose voices became integral to Young At Art’s collaborative design process. Tracey Dear, a musician, artist with light, and frequent collaborator of the designers was soon commissioned as the Cave Artist. Meetings at the artist’s studio and former museum location included the designers, the museum director and staff, from education to facilities management. Conversations ranged from modern mark-making to child-appropriateness and from safety to forming beauty and relevance. Questions such as: “what would a child learn in the cave?” and “when you were a child, what were the first marks you made?” shaped the project. Due to the complexity of the structure and the openness necessitated by security, a full-size mock-up was created. The artist, design team, fabrication team, and museum staff participated in reviewing the cave experience. Multiple meetings with the entire team structured the timeline of imagery and accompanying soundtrack, while solving copyright issues. The clarity of experience at the cave is a result of a participatory process, one in which dreams and aspirations alongside museum goals became design informants.

Additional Information

Young At Art’s installations and commissioned artworks live within the exhibit galleries; all the visible outcome of collaborative meetings held between the design team, the museum, educators, board members, curators, museum professionals, artists, children, and the community. Blue sky dreams captured at those meeting became design informants for master planning, the original framework for exhibit design. This case study, now called the Big Red Book, is a map and motivator of the museum’s continuing commitment to art, to create transformative art environments, and to provide relevant experience for children and their families where art is used for learning and play.