Design for kids grows up in China

Qinhuangdao, China – A few images spring to mind when hearing the words ‘children’s eatery’: visions of cartoon-character cutouts, primary colours, perhaps a carnivalesque atmosphere. For Aranya Kids Restaurant, however, Wutopia Lab opted for a more mature ambience.

Multicoloured rooms are no longer as attractive to children as we may think

‘Gimmicky and childish design doesn’t interest every kid,’ says Yu Ting, chief architect at Wutopia Lab. It was one child in particular that inspired Ting’s pared-back aesthetic in Qinhuangdao, China. When experiencing various hospitality environments with his daughter, the designer was surprised to discover her aversion to colourful, cartoonish spaces. ‘There are already too many naive designs made by adults. Multicoloured rooms are no longer as attractive to children as we may think.’

Ting’s daughter mentioned two key factors for engaging youngsters: spatial variation and a leitmotif. ‘Since they’re so curious about unfamiliar things, children enjoy exploring different spaces and following clues to unearth new experiences. Without an overwhelming palette to distract them, kids can be guided by the obvious colours in the scheme.’

Navigated by the sunshine-yellow staircase, for example, wee visitors pass by a bubble tree to arrive at the building’s fire-engine-red crown, which Ting likens to a flag or lighthouse. Made from double-perforated aluminium panels, the structure sits atop an example of Prairie-School-meets-Art-Deco architecture. Wutopia Lab wrapped the original façade in polycarbonate panels, leaving a gap for vertical gardens and large staircases. ‘This is the first time we’ve used polycarbonate to represent a solid surface, because the material can reveal silhouettes from inside. At some angles, however, the shadows vanish. This means the walls vary depending on the viewer’s perspective and the time of day.’

Location

This is an edited version of a piece featured in St-W 124 (p. 98-103). To read the full story, which includes insights on the way children focus on food and the need for spatial ambiguity, you can . 

Leaderboard: Rietveld Academie
Leaderboard: Rietveld Academie

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