project: Barbie Shanghai
location: Shanghai, China
designer: Slade Architecture
"It's a challenge to create the first ever environment for an iconic doll," says James Slade, whose New York firm Slade Architecture was tasked with designing the first Barbie flagship store in Shanghai, a location selected for its large population and market potential. Mattel, the manufacturer of Barbie and licenser of the most Barbie products worldwide, sought to bring together aspects of the Barbie brand in a store that goes way beyond just toys.
"We wanted a retail experience that celebrates the doll as the hero, but also shows the depth and breadth of the entire brand," says Richard Dickson, a senior vice president in charge of the Barbie brand at Mattel. To fulfill this goal, Slade and his partner Hayes Slade established a vocabulary to interpret the Barbie brand, designing everything from the façade, interiors, and furniture to the display fixtures, clothing hangers, and plates in the café.
They began by gutting the 35,000-sq.-ft., six-story building and partnering with New York branding and design firm BIG to create a façade that layers molded, translucent, polycarbonate interior panels and flat exterior glass panels printed with a decidedly feminine lattice frit pattern. The reconstructed façade also features softer edges that allude to the curved, sinuous surfaces that await on the interior.
Inside, Slade strategically employed pink in specific places. The pearlescent white entry lobby serves as a decompression zone that helps visitors transition from the gritty, urban Shanghai street into the home of Barbie, but then they are "bathed in pink" as they ascend the escalator. "The pink acts as a signal," Hayes Slade says. "When you come into the white lobby, you see a burst of pink glow from the escalator that pulls you in." The pink shading becomes increasingly more intense as one vertically traverses the store levels.
A spiral staircase encased by hundreds of translucent, polycarbonate boxes that contain 800 Barbie dolls—all dressed in pink—connects the main (women's) floor with the levels above (the girls' and doll floors). "The staircase is the center of the store and one of the most memorable elements," Dickson says. "I never get bored going up and down the stairs. A pillar of the most fabulous dolls as far as the eye can see, what can be better?!"
Girls can design their own Barbies in the Barbie Design Center, conceived by Columbus, Ohio-based Chute Gerdman and designed by Slade, while a Barbie Fashion Stage designed by Chute Gerdman allows them to participate in a runway show. With the store intended as a fully immersive experience that attracts girls and mothers alike, the women's floor features apparel, cosmetics, and a couture line of Barbie merchandise, and the Barbie Café is set on the top floor. "Each section of the store is a unique facet of the Barbie experience," says Hayes Slade. "We created these distinct little environments that all fold together as a whole space that is very open and visually connected."
With the client wanting a design-focused retail space that was clean and modern but not cold, the designers added touches of whimsy and played on the sense of scale. For example, looking from the girls floor down through the spiral stair and doll wall, shoppers on the main level appear to be the same size as the dolls. "The store is modern, fun, and filled with 'oohs' and 'ahs.' It's a perfect blend of sophistication, quality, and fun," Dickson says. "It's eye candy, pure eye candy."
“What a great project to have…to create a thoroughly modern space to sell Barbie. The stair, with the continuous doll display, totally captured me! The signature color is used with great strength, impact, and conviction—it is just shy of overdone, or just the right amount of overdone. This space would make any Barbie fan feel glamorous.”
Project: Barbie Shanghai. Client: Mattel. Architect, interior designer: Slade Architecture. Local Architect: AD Incorporation (China) Ltd. Structural, mechanical, electrical engineer: Scott Wilson LTD. General contractor: EDG. Construction manager: Mattel. Lighting designer: Radiance Lightworks. Store concept: Richard Dickson/Mattel. Store Concept Development/ Creative Assistance: BIG/ Ogilvy & Mather. Activities planners: Chute Gerdeman Retail. Retail consultant: Vertical Retail Consulting (Formerly KSA Shanghai). Restaurant cnsultant: David Laris Creates. Furniture fabricator: Strads Design Co. Fixtures vendor/fabricator: Kingsmen. Woodwork: EDG. Graphics: Mattel and BIG/ Ogilvy & Mather (frit pattern on outer glass). Façade supplier/installer: King Glass Engineering Co. Photographer: Iwan Baan.
Wallcoverings: Maharam, Euroart. Laminates, veneers: EDG. Dry wall: custom. polycarbonate panels: GE- SG305 supplied by King Glass. Fabric scrim wall: RoseBrand/ installed by EDG. Toilet partitions with silver decals: custom supply and installed by EDG. Flooring: EDGCarpet/carpet tile: Interface, Eurotex, custom by EDG. Tile: local product supplied by EDG, custom flower tile by Coboli tile. Lighting fixtures: EDG. Glass: custom frit glass fabricated and installed by King Glass, EDG. Doors: Dorma. Railing: glass railing, plaster at escalator: Local product supplied by EDG. Tables: custom by Kingsmen. Display fixtures: shelving system manufactured by Cubic, custom petal fixture design by Slade / fabricated by EDG. Custom fixtures: designed by Slade Architecture / fabricated by Kingsman. Architectural woodworking: custom millwork fabricated by EDG. Cabinetmaking: EDG and Kingsmen. Signage: Mattel. Escalators: Mitsubishi. Plumbing fixtures: Kohler.
Location: Shanghai, China. Total floor area: 38,000 sq. ft. No. of floors: 5. Typical floor size: 8,000 sq. ft.