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A Toy Story

Penda uses the dandelion flower as inspiration for its latest project in Beijing. Alywin Chew writes.

A Toy Story


July 16th, 2015

Photos: Xia Zhi

Founded by Precht and Sun Dayong in 2013, many of Penda‘s notable design projects such as the Contemporary Art Museum in Buenos Aires, the Myrtle Garden Hotel in China’s Hubei Province and The Third Place, a library in Daegu, feature the use of arcs and bends. In Toby’s Home, a café cum toy store in Beijing, the Vienna and Beijing-based company continues its exploration of curves.

Commissioned by Chinese developer Vanke, the design brief was to create a space for both adults and children, while reflecting the story of the product: Toby, a toy line about dandelion seedlings that grew up in a forest. Toby is also the brand mascot for FUNMIX, the commercial complex that the store is located in.


Taking inspiration from the shape of the achene – the slender fruit in the dandelion that helps with the dispersal of seeds, Penda created a series of arched pillars in the store to resemble it. Besides satisfying the design criteria and providing structural support, these arches can also be used to display the brand’s product line, books and decorative plants.


“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,” said Penda’s co-founder Chris Precht.


When customers walk into the store, they are immediately besieged by the sight of these ‘achene’ structures. Venturing further, they will find that these bi-directional columns are seamlessly interwoven with one another, creating a surrealistic landscape that resembles a white-washed forest. These columns had also been intentionally spaced out unevenly to reflect the nature of the forest.


When the lights are switched on, the white arches and the shadows they cast provide an enchanting contrast to the dark floors and walls, infusing the space with a vitality befitting of the shop’s brand persona.


Sleek ramps, flanked by a veil of steel cables, add a touch of rectilinearity to the landscape. Along with a set of staircases, the ramps bring visitors from the mezzanine floor, where the café or exhibition space is situated, to an elevated area that can be used to host VIPs, games and lectures.



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