Architecture and Design

Apartment buildings now need to be fully family-friendly

Developers have to be thinking more about how the whole family can enjoy living somewhere: from installing rooftop bars to 11-foot dinosaurs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 11:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 11:39am

Check out any number of the high-end, full-service apartment buildings sprouting up around the world and you’ll see no shortage of sophisticated amenities: rooftop bars, spin-cycle rooms, spas, fur storage, wine cellars.

Developers, it seems, have thought of everything for the affluent, urbane adult, but that focus is now pivoting to children.

Developers and architects are dreaming up ever more innovative ideas to keep children engaged while they are hanging out at home, whether that’s by incorporating a cave in the bowels of the building or a specially commissioned sculptural net for the little ones to climb on.

At the five-tower Bayview in Guangzhou, for example, residents can enjoy taking a dip in one of several pools – including one that leads to a grotto.

The upcoming Mount Pavilia in Sai Kung is creating a play space featuring a sleek powder-coated steel cylindrical play structure – a refreshing antidote to typical primary-coloured ones.

“It’s definitely a trend,” said Drew Spitler, principal and director of development at Dermot, which is behind the new 21 West End building in New York, between 60th and 61st streets.

“The area has a tremendous amount of families with infants and toddlers so we decided to create a large room just for them.”

But it’s not just any room: the play space has, as its centrepiece, an 11-foot dinosaur for children to climb on; the inside is lined with 60 feet of dry erase boards where they can draw and write.

And child-sized “peep holes”’ in the walls allow children to look out onto the dog run. There’s also an arcade area is for older children. The building, which has 616 rental units, opened late last year and is about half leased.

“Families are choosing to stay in cities instead of moving to the suburbs,” Spitler said. “So we’ve had to create extra areas within the building that they would be able to have in a house.”

Developers and designers are also noticing an uptick in demand as families see child-friendly amenities as valuable perks.

Developed by Kingold Group, the Bayview residential complex in Guangzhou features units up to 3,500 square feet, built with families in mind.

Daun St Amand, senior vice-president of the Los Angeles office of international architecture and design company Callison RTKL, and his team created amenities for every age group – game arcades, a basketball court, an indoor playground and six swimming pools.

“We wanted to create fun surprises, like you would find in a resort,” St Amand said. That includes a 700 sq ft, two-storey grotto accessed through a compressed cave near one of the swimming pools.

“We could imagine kids giggling, having fun, jumping back into the pool,” he said of the development, which is now in its last phase of construction.

In coming up with a concept for the playspace at 1010 Brickell – a new building in Miami – developer Inigo Ardid turned to Japanese fibre artist Toshiko Horiuchi, who spent six months hand-knitting a sculptured net with swings attached. The result is a “crochet playground” on which children can climb and bounce.

Also in the space are a a rock climbing wall, ball pits, slides. A glass wall separates the area from the adjoining fitness room – so parents can hit the treadmill while keeping an eye on their children.

“There are no kids’ buildings in the area,” said Ardid, co-president of Miami-based Key International. “Everything that was being built nearby was for parties and cool stuff. But a lot of our buyers are from Latin America and have big families and we thought there would be a market to do something cool and fun that would attract families.”

The 389 units in the 50-storey building – priced on average at US$750,000 each – are sold out; buyers, Ardid said, were drawn to the generous amenities, which also include a water park, bowling alley, arcade room with games like foosball, and a rock climbing wall.

In Sai Kung, Mount Pavilia, which is slated for completion in March next year, will offer homes from 409 sq ft to 3,372 sq ft, priced at about HK$20,000 per square foot.

Part of the development is a 17,000 sq ft indoor-outdoor space, designed by avant-garde Amsterdam-based design company Carve, which specialises in children’s playspaces; Mount Pavilia’s will have a streamlined, minimalist aesthetic.

Fundamentally, experts say, developers need to be thinking more about how families can enjoy being with each other within the footprint of a building.

“In some ways, we’ve forgotten about the activities that people used to like to do,” Ardid said.

“It’s good to have these places, even in urban settings, where kids can run around and be kids.”