X+living, a renowned Shanghai-based architectural firm, completed a whimsical swimming and recreational club for children and parents, the Loong swim club in Suzhou, China. The colourful accents and caricature geometries create dream-like environments in each room. Polka-dotted and striped furniture and lighting pieces add pops of pattern in pastel spaces. All the areas are meant to foster interaction between the children and their parents, making the children feel safe and free playing around in wonderland.
Well informed of their target audience – children, parents and infants all inhabiting the same areas – the architectural firm considered the habits and behaviours of all of the groups. The interior designers divided the parent-child swim club into five main functional areas, all flowing through seamlessly from one space to the next through a fantastic narrative.
A big whale that wraps around a column, jumping out of the water welcomes visitors when entering the building through the reception area. The area features a desk in the shape of a ship and a small arc lace outlined on the bottom is meant to represent a wave pushing the ship and the narrative to the next space. Passing through the reception and the shoe changing area, guests are led on to the reading room.
Ranging between giant slides and small nooks, the reading area includes a series of curved, over-sized seating pieces, or ‘leisure couches’. The colourful pieces are scattered in a dotted carpet, inviting children to accommodate themselves to read. The interior designers intended them to represent waves, cradling the children in infinite seating positions. Bookshelves are incorporated into both of the couch’s ends. Looking up at the lights in the reading area, the round lampshades are meant to look like sprays of water splashing in the sky. Towards the left and right ends of the reading area, kids and parents can access the swimming pool and the restaurant.
The swimming pool looks like a huge water tank surrounded by pastel pink arches. To one side of the swimming pool, there is a variety of small classrooms hosting a variety of DIY workshops for kids and on the other side, there is a walkway and seats creating a rest and companion area for parents. The swimming pool’s light blue hue contrasts against the pink space in a magical environment and the giant overhead water droplets add to the dramatic effect. The over-sized round droplets in the ceiling acting as lighting devices creating a light atmosphere where children can be easily monitored by their parents.
The window between the pool and the parents’ area plays an important role in the space, allowing parents to watch their children swim and children to interact back. At the end of the corridor is the bath area divided into children and adults. Huge flower chandeliers adorn the infant bath area providing eye-catching pieces in the space’s ceiling. While parents bathe their babies, the latter are distracted observing the intricate and colourful patterns inside the lamps, making the experience easier for the parents. Going back from the pool to the reading area, towards the right side of it, guests can access the dining area.
The ‘eggshells castle’ is the centrepiece of the restaurant that defies all senses of space and place, of sizes and heights and playful geometries. The mirrored ceiling gives the room an endless horizon, reflecting the busy and colourful interior. Children are invited to play inside the eggs, or climb up and over them, encouraging guests them to experience the space in a playful way. The fairy-tale shapes welcome children and adults alike into this wonderland, hosting the dining tables around the eggshell castle so parents can keep track of their children.
Other parts of the project take guests through maze-like hallways, clad with mirrors and a terrazzo-style carpet, creating the illusion of being lost in an Alice in Wonderland scene. The party room’s fun chandeliers remind viewers of Christmas ornaments and circus decorations in pastel tones that bring back childhood memories. The project’s overall colour palette is a pastel range of pinks, blues and neutrals, disregarding colour in gender intentionally. The colourful shapes in the interiors also include thin, black lines that add an avant-garde aesthetic to the project.
This architectural firm also achieves the spatial aesthetics in terms of composition – the different sizes of ratios, from two centimetres of arched laces to three meters of arched doors, challenge the visual proportions in the spaces. The dreamy interior design creates an experience that motivates children and adults alike to explore every corner of the whimsical project.
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