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Toy Story: Designing a Haven for Kids

Tasked with creating the best toy store in Hong Kong, Alexander Wong Architects drew on fairytales, classic literature and Gothic architecture to create a space that will inspire and delight children and adults alike.

Toy Story: Designing a Haven for Kids

Dubbed the Toy Cathedral, this magical toy store is filled with vaulted, Gothic arches, octagonal ceiling patterns, yellow buses, constellation ceilings and fantastical staircases. It can be found on the 7th and 8th floors of SOGO‘s Causeway Bay department, and this 2,000-square-foot space is the second project Hong Kong design studio Alexander Wong Architects has done for the Japanese department store chain.

Here, we talk to the firm’s Founder, Alexander Wong, about the Toy Cathedral and its inspirations, as well as their recent wins at the International Property Awards.

What inspired your design for the Toy Cathedral?

We studied and researched all the fairytales from children’s literature around the world, especially the classics, and invariably we ended up in a world filled with Gothic fantasies and legends. Led by the magic of Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and the Narnia Chronicles, to name just a few, we felt Gothic was the best approach towards creating this magical world for kids.

M. C. Escher’s maze-like stairs and the iconic spiral staircases from Lothlórien in Lord of the Rings further inspired us to redefine the escalators as a unique and totally out-of-this world ascending and descending device.

Why is it a ‘Cathedral’?

We came up with the notion of a cathedral, which is perfect, as it’s a place where we meet the supreme highest powers. And in this case, it is the world of imagination of the highest order for kids, where ‘Creativity and innovation are the new religion’.

Obviously we do not promote a particular type of religion in this space, and yet it works because we looked at Gothic architecture. Gothic has that repetitive structural quality that makes it meaningful.

Architecture represents the ritualistic aspects of human society. We do things over and over again. We need to sleep, we need to eat, we need to live, we need to go to work every day, we need to give birth, and we need to die. If it’s not a ritual, you can’t repeat yourself; you can’t perfect yourself.

How did Charles Dickens influence the design for this space?

I was brought up on Dickens, and I believe Great Expectations is still one of the greatest and most profound novels (or shall we say
spiritual journeys’) ever written. Going to a toy store should be like entering a Dickensian novel filled with adventures, surprises, passion, tears, and unfathomably profound lessons for life.

Alexander Wong Architects recently won World’s Best Interior Design, Best Leisure Interior Asia Pacific and Best International Leisure Interior at the International Property Awards 2016-2017 in London – all for your project Carmen Futura. How do you feel about winning?

The World’s Best Interior Design award was the last of the evening, and I was so shocked to win this big award. Two thousand companies competed in these awards, where the focus is on architecture within the world of property and real estate. It’s about the market, it’s not about academia – and this is what the new reality is all about.

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