Hotel Hope Playscape

The Small Center design build studio worked with Hotel Hope to create an outdoor play space for the children living at Hotel Hope. The playscape transforms a parking lot into an oasis where children and their mothers can play, learn, and grow with each other.

Project Dates

August 2019–December 2019

  • created by dji camera


Hotel Hope, a non-profit, interfaith organization provides housing and services to women and children living through homelessness. Hotel Hope responded to Small Center’s yearly Request for Project Proposals with the goal to transform the courtyard at their emergency housing location from a harsh concrete slab into a play haven.



Small Center Engagement

The Small Center team worked with the staff and residents of Hotel Hope to understand the current use and needs of the courtyard which serves as a safe space for kids of all ages to play, bike, and congregate. Through a series of art activities and conversations with the children and mothers staying at Hotel Hope, a clear set of needed uses and material/aesthetic goals emerged including a desire for a lush oasis-like feel with warm yet durable materials and spaces where mothers and kids could connect around play. Staff, board members, residents and design critics informed a series of design proposals and reconfigurations that resulted in the final built scheme.

The resulting playspace design, Hexscape, is a series of interventions that transformed the barren parking lot into a welcoming sanctuary for guests and their children. The overall strategy consists of three targeted interventions— an alligator mulch pit, a tunnel, and a shaky bridge and music wall — all of which encourage children to play, learn, and grow. Additional design work included native plantings throughout the site, custom hex-shaped bricks that face seating areas, and a large mural. Beyond creating a landscape for play the project also accommodates the gathering, meals, and outdoor celebrations that often happen at Hotel Hope.

In roughly 13 weeks the studio team designed and fabricatedthe project during the fall of 2019. In spring of 2020 installation of elements that were delayed by drainage work happening at the site will be completed.


Partner Organization

Hotel Hope is a nonprofit, interfaith organization that provides housing to women and their children while guiding them to self-sufficiency and self-empowerment through intensive case management in a safe and loving atmosphere. Hotel Hope envisions the preservation of the family unit and the elimination of homelessness through systemic change. Their core values are Love, Compassion, and Empowerment.

Hotel Hope operates an emergency shelter for Women and Children that is a converted mid-century modern motor hotel in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood. In this building, they provide the first of three steps toward self-sufficiency and housing stability. Residents live at Hotel Hope and work on an individual development plan for up to 45 days after which Hotel Hope and their partners ensure that the families have permanent housing.


This new playscape provides children (often 10 years old or younger) and mothers a nurturing environment that encourages play, interaction, creates learning opportunities, and establishes pathways towards healing.



Hotel Hope

  • The mothers and children who reside at Hotel Hope
  • Sr. Mary Lou Specha
  • Sr. Julie Marsh
  • Maggie Connick,
  • Janice Landry May
  • Dondra Hills
  • Catherine Kinabrew

Team Members

Project Leads

  • Emilie Taylor Welty (design lead)
  • Jose Cotto (project manager)


  • Luna Eaton
  • Kalyn Faller
  • Caroline Garfield
  • Yara Hantash
  • Anabelle Kleinberg
  • Mengning (Xiaolan) Lan
  • Jason Malat
  • Chewys Parra Paulino
  • Shanelle Reese
  • Ryan Shaaban
  • Jakob Surber
  • Brandon Surtain


  • Nick Jenisch
  • Donn Peabody
  • Ann Yoachim
  • Rashidah Williams


  • Butterfield concrete color
  • CTS Cement Manufacturing Corporation
  • Travis Boost, Grow Dat Youth Farm

Special Thanks

To Our Reviewers

  • Julie Babin
  • Pat Franke
  • Doug Harmon
  • Tiffany Lin
  • Liz McCormick
  • James Wheeler
  • Gaylan Williams
  • Glenn Wilcox