Design firm, X+Living, unveils the Neobio Family Park, an indoor park thoughtfully designed to create an interest for reading in young children and to enable social play with others in a safe environment.
In the Minhang suburb of Shanghai are two European-styled buildings with ornate stone façades containing the fantasy-themed Neobio Family Park – a combination of café, bookstore, playground, and event spaces designed “to make reading pleasant and educational, and to turn [the] children’s reading area into an amusement park-like place” in the words of the designer, X+Living.
The square-recessed columns framing the entryway are decorated with intricate floral relief patterns on stone panels, bringing the façade of the exterior to a head at the entrance. The bright yellow awnings stand out among the other retail outlets in the Xinghewan shopping row of Duhui Road, bringing visual attention to Neobio’s store-front.
A set of pastel-coloured cubby-hole shelves topped with low-polygon animal heads can be seen lining the path to the service counter like the statues of Karnak. The undulating forms of the unique bookshelves can also be seen in the background, through the glass sliding doors of the entrance, beckoning observers to cross the threshold for a closer look.
Neobio’s main receiving area occupies both sides of the entryway, providing ample room and scaled-down furnishings for children to sit on and organise their personal belongings on their way into the reading area. “We use small forests and hills to create a free and relaxing reading area where kids feel close to nature”, the designers say of the motif in the reading area.
The centre of the reading area is filled with an assortment of curved or undulating bookshelves forming mazes of arches and wall partitions around small sanctuaries with different access points for children and adults. The walls of the reading area are lined with bookshelves made of dark wood, forming a border region where adults can skim through books while their wards explore the child-sized alcoves hidden around this space.
The unique bookshelves extend to the children’s classroom, forming a partition wall with a child-sized escape portal. The other wall of the classroom features full-height bookshelves in dark wood framing a window with a view to the exterior of the building. The children’s chairs in the classroom are adorable amalgamations of modern seats with classically-designed milled wooden legs, with their backs formed from the silhouettes of various animals in the same pastel colour scheme.
The transition between the reading area and the café is served by a modern arch; the café itself is surrounded by smaller arches, stairs and elevated walkways for children to explore while adults take in a meal or a coffee. The ceiling is decorated with 20th century architectural relief silhouettes demarcating and visually separating the café space from the children’s play areas.
The play areas around the café present an underwater theme, with transparent tubes covering crawlspaces over arches and slides into pools of blue foam balls to simulate water. Bubble-like forms lower the ceiling for the children in the play area, by enclosing ball pens in pastel-coloured collages of geometry.
Neobio’s upper floor contains a miniature city – Sims City, for children to play pretend in almost any scene a child could dream up. Children can drive around the scaled-down town in pedal cars, stopping at mini parking lots, pedestrian crossings, or any one of the various facilities that may be found in an urban centre to act out their imaginary lives.
Neobio has more notable features that are not pictured here, such as a variety of themed private event spaces in the basement that can be reserved by families for celebrations such as birthday parties. Another novel feature is a slide leading from the aerobic and climbing playground called the “Big Child Area” on the upper floor to the café on the ground floor. With the assembly of features designed to immerse children in a range of different yet connected play areas, it seems apparent that X+Living accurately predicted the outcome: “we are designing a real indoor amusement park”.
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Article by Kevin Eichenberger