Discovery Museum Outdoor Plaza

A Placemaking Success Story


The Chattanooga Discovery Museum is a national leader in effectively sparking children's passions for learning through hands-on experiences. It is also a vital educational resource in collaborating with community partners across the region. The museum hosts over 200,000 visitors a year who enjoy a wide array of exhibits, educational programs, workshops, and learning adventures. Additionally, their “museum without walls” serves more than 46,000 children in surrounding communities in partnership with schools and other organizations, including a distance learning program where materials are shipped to children and lessons are led by museum educators via Skype.

The museum is located in a vibrant, mixed use area in downtown Chattanooga, where residents, employees, and tourists come together in a variety of interests. The outside plaza at the Children’s Museum is a welcome respite for all, workers come there to enjoy lunch, residents use it as a beloved resting place to enjoy the sights and sounds, and Chattanooga’s tourists often find it a welcome place to “take a breather” during a busy day. The plaza sits adjacent to the museum, so it’s a lively space with plenty of surrounding things to see and hear.


As such, the museum realized the need to provide visual cues to help people using the plaza to observe appropriate physical distancing protocol. They wanted to do so in a fun way that complemented the design of the facility, so they removed some seats, and added artistic silhouettes to the tables and chair groupings to block additional seats and help people follow guidelines. Shaped like children, families, and animals, the silhouettes create visual appeal within the plaza, and are designed to be easily removable and used elsewhere in the museum after the pandemic has passed. Additional seating in the shape of animals as well as shade structures are currently being installed to expand seating options and offer shade from the strong southern sun. The silhouettes can also serve as a wayfinding tool (“we’re outside at the squirrel table”) and as markers in scavenger hunts.

The fun, themed silhouettes are a welcome addition to the plaza for the assistance they provide in safe distancing, and for the colorful way they expand upon the Children’s Discovery Museum theming.

Learn more about successful placemaking and ways to increase engagement and attendance to your space.

Placemaking. More than the latest buzzword.

Make your next placemaking project one that provides community comfort, pride, and engagement.

Request program