We should work for simple, good, undecorated things, but things which are in harmony with the human being and organically suited to the little man in the street.——Alvar Aalto
Founded in 2015, Petit Chou Chou is the first French parent-child culture brand in mainland China, focusing on the guidance and teaching of the French language and French culture to children. In 2019 early, the founder David commissioned TOPOS DESIGN to create a warm family-like space on Anyuan Road in Shanghai’s Jing’an District. After three years of precipitation and exploration, the seed of Petit Chou Chou, which came from Anyuan Road to Tianshan Road and grew and sprouted in the Gubei community. In the post-epidemic era, even with the difficulties, Petit Chou Chou will eventually bloom in the soil of freedom and turn into a dense forest that transmits French culture.
The site is located on the third floor of the Xiansuo, Chuang Yi MIX, at 1111 Tianshan Road, with a street facade of nearly 30 meters and a light surface. Due to the shallow depth of the original building, the 9 independent rooms connected by one liner corridor have a large area of light, but the resulting 50 meters of linear flow also became a difficulty. How to deal with the relationship between traffic space and usage function became a breaking point: micro-transformation of 9 rooms, expansion of the starting and ending points of the inner corridor, implantation of different functions and contents in different spaces, and provision of spatial memory with brand genes.
In the past, TOPOS DESIGN has kept a cautious critical attitude toward the commercial principle of “size first”. In the renovation of the foyer, the design team and the owner decided to put “comfort first” and wastefully expanded the foyer into a shared space for reception, negotiation, display, and waiting. The foyer is a forest shelter, with three curved walls that mimic the form of tree branches extending to the ceiling, and wood providing a warm sense of the color. Green is the corporate color of Petit Chou Chou. The shimmering matrix of letters, and grass shrubs from the forest transplanted to the reception desk symbolize the thriving life force. The large long table was a favorite spot on the old campus, so the design team have replicated it on the new campus. Everyone can have a cup of coffee and a croissant, and the communication between teachers, students, and parents is more open and free.
For the inner corridor of the children’s classroom, the design team decided to adopt the lightest transformation strategy. The painted wall on one side is derived from the teaching content of Petit Chou Chou. And combined with the interactive device that can be flipped, it increases the visual information and brand culture output of the corridor without affecting the passage. The existing glass partition with gradient frosted film and green French logo maintains a sense of transparency while increasing the privacy and recognition of the classroom.
The interior of the classroom continues the use of curved walls, with two functional walls connected to the ceiling, forming a hug-like enclosure in the section. The fireproof panel wainscoting avoids sharp corners to ensure the safety of children. The bookcase at the back of the classroom also takes into account the scale of the children, with a small space at the bottom for the children to store their personal belongings.
At the end of the corridor is a little surprise left for the children. Almost every child dreams of having a secret base in a big tree – a tree house. Passing through the classrooms, the base is reached to fully experience the fun of exploration. The use of mirrored ceiling visually extends the height of the floor, like Doraemon’s inter-dimensional pocket, with a small space containing infinite possibilities. The tree house also serves as a library and lecture hall for Petit Chou Chou, providing a venue for future book clubs.
The design team designed a multi-purpose theater with separate entrances and exits for the future of Petit Chou Chou. The spacious and open theater serves as a stage to showcase the germinating dreams of the children. At the end of the theater is an open and transparent glass wall, providing the best natural stage background. Both sides of the theater are concealed storage cabinets. Meanwhile, two sets of folding doors can be opened and closed in the middle to split the large space and meet the needs of two small theaters.
As in 2019, the design team refused to over-design and returned to the essence of the space, utilizing every wall, placing every rounded corner, splicing every piece of material, and settling every light. During the construction period, Shanghai experienced a three-month lockdown, and it was already a hot summer when work resumed. We sincerely thank the tenacity and persistence of the Petit Chou Chou team for allowing the seeds of hope to continue growing in this great city.
大城小事，万物生长，C’est la vie！
Large city with small things, everything thriving, C’est la vie！
Project name：Petit Chou Chou, French Family Learning Center
Clients：Petit Chou Chou
Design Firm：TOPOS DESIGN
Principle Architect：LIN Chen
Project Architect: FENG Yanyan
Design Team：WANG Lei, JIANG Yelei, XU Zijie, WANG Bihu (Electromechanical design)
Graphic Design: WANG Xuan
The construction side：Shanghai Yunse Decoration Engineering Co.
Project location：No.1111 Tianshan Road, Shanghai, China
Gross Built Area (square meters)：600m²
Photo credits：Voyager 21
Design year & Completion Year：2022.01 to 2022.03
Construction year & Completion Year：2022.04 to 2022.07
Materials：Fireproof board, finished flooring, perforated aluminum panel, custom film