Starfish Land is an award-winning playground located in Yantai, China. It is a landscape specialized for children’s activity area, located on a seawall plaza surrounded by Yantai’s golden beach. 

The design of Starfish Land is inspired by two specific marine life, a combination of starfish and octopus. Both shapes of the animals provoke imagination from the natural organic curves of an octopus to the playful and imaginative shape of a starfish. It captures the unique appeal of coastal life in Yantai so close to the children’s perspective of their everyday lives. To capture the colorful marine life, handcrafted mosaic bricks and terrazzo are used as a playground’s material. Besides being resilient and durable, it also provokes children’s curiosity and imagination to explore. The hand-crafted material is to ensure the safety of children, while the glassy and colorful aspect is a mirror of a rich imagination of nature. Starfish Land is an interactive playground and public art masterpiece radiating happiness and joy. 

Using children as a point of reference for ergonomic scale and concept inspiration to make them feel comfortable to explore the venue. Children are naturally drawn to elements inspired by nature and organic shapes, as well as abstract and vibrant colors that catch their attention. Additionally, spaces that resemble caves and can create intriguing light and shadow effects are particularly captivating for children. The main body of the magic starfish serves as an excellent spot for young kids to engage in storytelling and play games like hide and seek with adults. The “tube foot” of the starfish acts as a slide, a net rope, and a barrier, while also functioning as a climbing tower that allows children to reach high vantage points. Within the “arms and feet” of the starfish, there is a climbing net specifically designed for older children. The entire starfish structure serves as a friendly and encouraging playmate, offering an enjoyable environment for children during their playtime to climb, crawl, slide, dig, and hide. It helps foster their courage, curiosity, and desire for exploration and discovery. 

Starfish Land by Aecom - Sheet1
Starfish Land by Aecom - Sheet2

The entirety of the structure’s main feature is curved organic surfaces, giving the impression of the safe and dynamic grace of marine creatures with natural and transcendental lines. 

Children’s safety and maintenance are the priority of design, the mosaic and color take nature as inspiration and reflect the natural beauty of the ocean. Small-scale glass mosaic bricks constructed using handcrafting techniques, glittering and translucent-like shells bring the glimmering color of the sea and reflect the illusion of the spark of marine organisms’ skin. The whole body takes the gradual change of deep-sea blue and coral-powder pink as the main tone meanwhile using more than 20 hues of blue and pink gradient particles and complementary colors such as green, red, yellow, orange, and purple to present a strong artistic expression through manual free cutting craftsmanship. 

Starfish Land by Aecom - Sheet3
Starfish Land by Aecom - Sheet4 18adec73e0

The handmade mosaic skin is manufactured at the factory and later assembled on-site. Skilled workers, numbering in the hundreds, spent weeks experimenting with various configurations of mosaic tiles measuring mainly 1.5cm x 1.5cm, aiming to achieve the perfect combination of subtle patterns and colors. Creating a three-dimensional surface posed a significant challenge for the on-site craftsmen, particularly when it came to managing the edges, despite the tiles being small in size. To ensure the safety of children’s hands, the surface underwent meticulous polishing to achieve a smooth and refined finish. Special translucent mortar was utilized to securely bond the tiles together and prevent any potential cracking, as the installation needed to withstand direct sunlight during the summer and endure the harsh Yantai winters with below-freezing temperatures 

Combining a space to explore and play with public art and marrying local culture with unique site characteristics, starfish land has become a popular destination for citizens or tourists. It improves the citizen’s pride and gives positive benefits to society, the economy and the environment. It also become a landmark for the city due to its recognizable features. Due to the handcrafted nature of the project and its purpose, this structure is durable and long-lasting. A lot of planning went into designing the structure, from the safety to the aesthetic and durability concerning the weather of coastal areas. In conclusion, Starfish Land in Yantai, China, is an award-winning playground and public art masterpiece that combines elements of marine life with imaginative design. Inspired by the organic curves of starfish and octopuses, the playground captures the coastal life of Yantai from a child’s perspective and bringing iconic landmark in the area which benefiting society, the economy, and the environment. 


Miellyttävä Kuu is an aspiring architect with a formal education background of interior design. She lives in a magical place with hundreds of island, beautiful blue vast ocean and tropical rainforest, that is why she loves green architecture and biophilic design, she was born in it.