In recent years, fit-outs in Australia have laboured under a Scandinavian sky. Blonde woods reign underfoot in rooms adorned with furniture by mid-century Danish designers and their modern counterparts. To the relief of parents, the recreational market aimed at kids is noting the appeal of the Northern European aesthetic.

Nubo, a play space for children up to the age of ten in Sydney’s Alexandria, utilizes key Scandi design ideologies – functionalism and simplicity – to deliver a calm yet immersive environment for inquisitive minds to explore. It represents the first of its kind in the country.

No rainbow appears to have exploded within, splattering primary colours upon walls, plastic furnishings and toys. Quite the contrary: Nubo’s neutral palette – oak flooring paired with soft bouncy rubber inlays, custom-designed wooden furniture and playing apparatuses – (literally) elevates the atmosphere of the multi-tiered warehouse space.

Conceptual cloud motifs floating overhead are echoed in the contoured edges of partitions, while a giant hot-air balloon, whichfunctions as a reading pod, hovers above the curved library area.

We were inspired by the notion of cloud gazing, where minds are free to interpret what they see

Frost*collective and its associated divisions developed a strategy, identity and branded collateral for the Platine Group, predominantly a property-development company. ‘We were inspired by the notion of cloud gazing, where minds are free to interpret what they see,’ said Frost*Design’s Max Delplanque of the idea behind Nubo, whose name means ‘cloud’ in Esperanto.

Hong Kong’s Pal Design Group treated Frost*collective’s request for a venue that would ‘exercise the imagination’ with seamless perspicuity. ‘It’s very much a place for children to experience pure play,’ explained Delplanque, noting the absence of distracting digital devices and Nubo’s wooden-toys-only policy (with the exception of an immersive blue ball pit and a rubber-block-building room).

The formula works. Barely a decibel rises above the sound of classical music, and instead of tilting their heads towards screens, most parents prefer to interact with their peers and the children. ‘Even external childcare centres are booking play sessions here,’ said John Moore, Nubo’s head of operations. The staff includes musicians and art therapists who offer workshops and craft sessions. ‘Their observations offer real insights into the learning process,’ added Moore. 

Platine Group is wasting no time creating more spaces with the same ‘less is more’ approach to stimulating young minds. A second is scheduled to launch in Sydney’s Chatswood this December, and plans include other locations in Australia and, potentially, overseas.

This piece was originally featured on Frame 118. You can purchase a copy here.

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