Interview on Playoffice studio

We would love to know a little bit about the team of Play Office (the founders).

PlayOffice is the mix of four talents coming from different fields, and at the same time two creative couples rejoined together. Javier Calvo is an architect married to Judith Francisco, a designer (both developed their professional life in Spain and The Netherlads). Ines Suardíaz and Jose Carlos Francisco are a happy couple as well and come from the sports and leisure field, they’ve been working with kids for the last 12 years.

We are all parents which basically gives us the opportunity to have 24 hour observation and field lab to test our ideas, 🙂

What are all the areas of products and designing that you create at Play Office

We work on a personalizised Project basis, so we develop projects for any required area: private or public, indoor or outdoor, spaces or furniture. Our projects start from what we call an “emotional briefing” rather than a physical briefing. Let me explain this with an example, if a family come to our office asking for a playroom for their kids, obviously we will asked them how many kids they have, their ages, if they need a space to study or just play, and such things. But we will focus on knowing the emotional aspects of the kids: are they passive or dinamic, do they have a special hobbies, are they social or do they need to reinforce such area, are they artists or builders,… Our goal is to reach a design where the kids feel their needs and preferences are covered, but also a space where their less developed capacities are stimulated.

How did the concept of these creative play areas for children emerge?

The idea came from our experience as parents: The design of a classroom, the cantines at schools, the bedrooms or the design of a library have not been evolved for the last 100 years. I´m not talking about the architecture, but the design of the space. Kids have to sit facing the teacher for the last 100 years, that doesn´t exactly help them develop the idea of a group or invites them to interact as a class. That we want to change.

We have a simple philosophy “Learn by Playing”. We believe kids learn the more essential things in life through play: discipline, courage, perseverance, cohabitation,... And therefore we design spaces for them to play, experiment, and exercise.

Our society is really concerned about the education of children, but funny enough often children’s spaces are not designed at all to help them grow as individuals. We help families or companies build fun, aesthetic and educational spaces for kids, spaces that will bring out their talents, creativity and teach them manage their feelings.

What was the first concept you designed and who was it for?

Our very first Project was The Reading Net. The Reading net is a comissioned work by a large family to transformed their library. It’s in Madrid, in a residential area (north of the city).

The briefing was quite challenging. Kids were not showing up by the library ever so they asked us to build a special area/corner for the kids where they would feel comfortable and therefore they would be willing to spend time surrounded by books, but we were not allowed to change the structure nor the aesthetics of the actual library.

Every idea we come up at Playoffice is about integrating kids in the family life or society, so if they were to feel the library as their own space it shouldn’t be a separate area but the center of the library.

At PlayOffice we spend a lot of time watching kids play, behave and how they use spaces or stuff. The way kids act is never random, it’s caused by what they see from their high and what they do or don’t understand out of reality. So we asked ourselves what do kids think out of reading before they discover books are actually fun? How do they perceive the act of reading by watching their parents do it? And the answer was that they felt: “This is not for me” because:

  • You have to be sitting quietly.
  • You are not allowed to talk while reading.
  • You are alone, it’s an individual task.

So when we started to work on this project we challenged ourselves to destroy this three kids-threats. The result is the reading net where they can read anyway they want other than sitting, they can play, move, talk, exchange, and they can share the reading by doing it on groups or with their parents.

Where do you operate from? And have you thought of expanding your services to other cities?

Our office is in Madrid at the moment. We would love to expand our services to other countries, but to do such thing we need to be sure the production area is perfectly covered (perfect execution is key to us), and that can happen in two different ways: finding the right partner abroad or work on the idea and supervisión of the execution while the client takes care of production.

What is the greatest challenge you face while executing your ideas?

Production. Production. Production. Working for kids is complex, materials, measures, usuability, endurance, maintenance or special policies when working of specific áreas (hospitals, schools,…) have to be carefully taken care of.

Do you customise your ideas based on preferences from clients or are they standard ideas that they require?

So far every client that has called us have understood perfectly who were they calling and the philosophy behing our studio, so they have given us their emotional briefing and we’ve come up with various ideas that we’ve shaped together with them.

At the moment we are building an indoor gym for a very active kid, it’s not the same concept of an adult gym (it’s not about burning fat or growing muscles), but a mix of playground, gym (where he can burn some energy) and comfy place to be with his mates.

What is a typical day in the studio of Play Office like?

There’s a “traffic” meeting everyday (unless we are on the spot executing) where we revise the state of every ongoing Project, some are in the execution moment, some in the ideation moment, and some in the debrief moment.

We work on ideas together because we are quite complementary and everyone of us see the Project from a different angle: design, execution, aesthetics or usuability.