Asia: Malls Repurpose Limbo Spaces as Family Activity Parks
As experience-hungry millennials come of age and start having children themselves, shopping centres are evolving ever more thoroughly into leisure spots for families. Two in Asia have repurposed under-utilised space as in-store amusement parks – playfully combining entertainment and education.
- Neobio, Hangzhou, China: Following on from Neobio’s first family park in Shanghai (2017), Chinese architecture firm X+living has now completed its successor – a parent-child activity centre at the heart of China’s Star Avenue Phase II mall. The first-floor, 8,000 sq m space features an amusement area, a library, a miniature city, a trampoline space, party rooms and a restaurant.
It’s a pastel wonderland cloaked in a whimsical visual language with giant parasol structures in the atrium, and rainbow- and cloud-shaped shelves and nooks in the library. Neobio’s miniature city even comes complete with roads and a gas station and is reminiscent of Las Vegas – think candy-coloured cacti, a starlit night-sky ceiling and neon shop signs.
The amusement area, with its water play station, rocks a circus theme. Kids can explore different occupations within the playhouse, straddling a bakery, supermarket, post office and kitchen. Each section has a dedicated space for parents to rest and monitor their kids from cosy lounges (the restaurant area has transparent sand boxes and a climbing maze). Meanwhile, the party room area – bookable for events such as birthdays – offers beauty services for mothers to enjoy while their kids play dress-up.
- Toy Kingdom Play, Goyang, South Korea: Occupying 3,420 sq m on the second floor of the Starfield mall, this eccentric kids’ play park is the brainchild of South Korean retailer Emart. Designed under the theme of ‘Play Voyage’, it touches on the six pillars critical to a child’s development, including creativity, body & movement and discovery & sense. Exploring the lives of four fairy-tale characters, kids take a journey on a miniature train.
With a nostalgic visual appeal, the park is divided into three concepts: Cosy Village, Roof Rush and Wild Maze. The first includes a mini city complete with a supermarket and hospital, an art workshop and the Magic Change Studio, where kids are given the chance to become someone else. The second is all about the body and activity, with an obstacle, parkour and trampoline area, while Wild Maze engages the senses through immersive, digital-led storytelling on subjects such as animals and remote places. The tour ends in the mall’s toy shop. Finally, the third and fourth floors are filled with amenities and stores for children.
It may no longer be enough to add some play space to a store. Immersive playscapes that put experience first and acknowledge all members of the family – catering to different ages, interests and abilities – have a strong appeal for millennial parents.