‘Toby’s home’ is a cafe and flagship store for a toy product-line named ‘Toby’ and is located in a large commercial compound called FUNMIX in Daxing / Beijing. The toy-line tells the story of Toby and his friends, who are born as seedlings of a dandelion and grow up in-between a forest and was designed as a brand character for FUNMIX.

 

We were asked by chinese developer Vanke to create an architectural interpretation of Toby’s environment and translate it to a space for children and grown-ups, combining a toy-store with a cafe and public areas for lectures or games. We were looking at the project the same way as a seedling might see our natural environment and translated trees into large arches, which bundle together and define different areas within the space.

In a 4.5m high space, arcs are employed to create bidirectional columns resembling elegant and glittering dandelion seeds when the lights are turned on. At the same time, the columns can be used to display books, creative products, Toby dolls, and green plants. As an upside, the bundle of arcs are covering columns, beams and the buildings infrastructure. Rather than standing alone, these columns are interwoven to attract and invite people to walk in and explore the space.

A set of ramps and staircases connects a mezzanine floor to the exhibition and seating areas, which results in a homogenous circulation through the space. All ramps and railings are hung from the ceiling and supported by white-painted steel cables. The connecting circulation guides visitors through the forrest of arches and the movement of visitors appearing and disappearing behind arches adds a certain vitality to the space. The ramp connects to a wide, clearing-like area which can be used for social interactions, like games or lectures. Below the mezzanine is a coffee area that can be used also as an exhibition hall after removal of its furniture.

 

As visitors walk into the 800 sqm space, they are greeted by bundles of arches, which are kept solid to the front. As the visitors continue to get deeper into the forrest, the arches open up for them to look through and products to be displayed. Like a forest, the space offers a great contrast of solid and light, closed and open, dense and wide areas , resulting in an interesting atmosphere of spaces and light. The arches are kept white, which results in a nice contrast to the dark floor and walls. The white forest can be coloured in any tone by LED-lighting which is placed with the arches and offers a great flexibility to highlight certain areas, creating larger and smaller regions within the artificial forest.