The design of Harrods Toys Department celebrates toys in a gender neutral environment and provides a sensory experience to distinguish shopping for toys at Harrods from buying the same toys online. The concept uses colour to encourage children to interact with the space in a similar way that children’s books, such as Victorian pop-up tunnel books, require participation by their young readers.
Instead of a single open space in which all toys are presented at once, the new toy department is organised as a suite of eight rooms, each dedicated to a toy category. This creates an intimate and domestic setting for the toys and mimics the scale of a child’s bedroom. Each pair of rooms is divided by a panel of back-of-house storage to make access to stock faster.
A single colour is applied to each room, enveloping every element and fixture, including the floor, wall, ceiling, lighting fixtures, shelves, and mid-floor fixtures. This wash of colour eliminates the visual noise that conventionally defines toy departments and creates a simple setting in which children need process less visual information. The monochromatic environment enables them to become more sensitive to the object contained within each room and leads to a sharper detection of space.
To turn the journey through the sequence of rooms into an adventure, the circulation isle cutting through the rooms is tapered from one end to the other. This opens up a vista exposing all eight coloured rooms at once and encourages young customers to be active explorers through a maze of rooms and down the ‘rabbit hole’ of colour.
The adventure through the rooms allows children to experience the interaction between colours too, imagining new relationships between them that are not predetermined by adults. As they walk from one room to another they will carry an after-image of that room’s colour, which will be different when they walked through the rooms in reverse order.
Taken as a whole, the new Toy Department can be considered as a retail space that is architecturally unique to children within the conventional adult world of Harrods: spatially intimate, playful and experimental in the tradition of adventure playgrounds.