Toy library in Bonneuil-sur-Marne
by LAN Architecture



Paris-based LAN Architecture have renovated a building on a 1960s social housing estate in Bonneuil-sur-Marne, France, to create a toy library for children.


The project involved creating a free standing, cast-concrete shell around the existing two-storey building. Update 30/07/08: see interior photos of the project in our new story.


The following information is from the architects:


Children Toy Library – Bonneuil-sur-Marne, France
LAN Architecture, Paris.

The Children Toy Library of Bonneuil-sur-Marne is a public building as well as a playing space for children: the project represents the opposition between monumentality and conviviality, a dialogue in the same construction.


It is located in an area where social housing from the 60’s have a strong physical and social impact. We designed exterior and interior spaces respecting both strategies.


The building façade, as a shell, is linked with its urban context, translated into its shape, monolithism and strictness. We wanted to create a strong urban symbol, disconnected from its environment and whose shell could protect its core and participate to the regeneration of Bonneuil-sur-Marne social structures.


Rehabilitate - Renovate
Architecture alteration: towards the shell

The Children Toy library of Bonneuil-sur-Marne was created in a crossed reflection on several axes:

  • Changing destination and utilisation of an existing building
  • Conception of a playing area for children
  • Creation of a public equipment in an unstable area through a small scale project compared to the surrounding buildings
  • Confrontation with a very restricted budget (originally planned for internal arrangements)


We decided to set up an unscaled and timeless design, a solid mass object, an urban symbol able to separate itself from its environment, that is able, like a shell, to protect its contents; a volume that seemingly always existed, looking-like a bunker or a vernacular construction.


A new skin for an old body
Our strategy was inspired by a medical logic of intervention. The creation of a supplementary freestanding skin allowed us to control the interface between exterior spaces, building and interior spaces, but also to answer the requirement to create spatial benefits.


The new facades juxtaposed to the existing building, create the alteration, adding a monumental entrance, a new open courtyard on the first floor, and supplementary surface for administrative spaces, saving the original concrete structure. The shell is a green-tinted raw concrete cast into coffering simulating wood slats.


The opposition between the hermetic and closed outside and the coloured internal spaces represents another interest of the project. Children play in a sort of cocoon, rich in light variations, rising up over the two levels, in a simple, functional and intimate scale volume.

Posted on Wednesday July 23rd 2008 at 9:11 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • John

    The unfinished concrete is dreary and depressing.

  • monsieur!

    wow – thats well cool!!! :D

  • leandro locsin

    nice hermetic structure. voids are strategically located.

    but way too safe.

  • edward

    Innovative approach to a renovation. Pity there are not more interior views. The shameless use of béton brut may raise some hackles, but I like it.

  • rodger


  • happy123

    If it’s for children it’s a very scary place!..Really!

  • happy123

    What about the interiors!! Forgotten..

  • vico

    A lovely program for a building with the beautiful situation of rehabilitating an existing building within a social housing estate. The renegotiation of a limited interior budget to create a new exterior is a clever strategy.

    I want to love this project, however the language of the new shell is ponderous and drab. Sure cast concrete and sharp window details are chic, in a peculiar Corbusian nostalgic sense, but the suitability of this architectural language for a toy museum aiming at contextual relief is questionable to say the least.

    It appears as if the architects have privileged their own fetishes and desire for monumentality , rather than attempting to delight children, who as far as I know respond to bold colours, patterns, form, playfulness.

  • Heath Norton

    Doesn’t look like a toy museum to me. Looks like a prison.

  • edward

    “The opposition between the hermetic and closed outside and the coloured internal spaces represents another interest of the project.”

    This design was meant to provide contrasts and spatial interest. More documentation would be welcome.

  • tito

    could agree with vico, but don´t want to box the discussion into a right/wrong language choice.
    instead we should ask whether basing criteria on “style” is adecuate to critic this kind of social/institutional program

  • Très bien! Merci.

  • friendly fire

    the exterior is supposed to contrast with the interior, therefore is a more understated concrete finish.
    I dont expect anyone commenting here could do any better

  • scrubbi

    Did these guys not HAVE any toys growing up?

  • floyd landis

    They just had the box the toys came in.

  • celine mondieu

    Mon Dieu,
    Ou est les interiors? Quel missing chunk of info!

  • too much of a depressing feel about it. how about colours? there must be more colours in prisons! I’m sorry.. this wouldn’t pass with me or shouldn’t pass.. the FRONT FACADE replaced a whole facade of windows with one dreary opening. Not too inviting at all.

  • edward

    Jeez…the colors are inside the box. where they belong. Doesn’t anyone read the text. But the designers should have given us images of that and eliminate the misunderstandings.

  • more of a toy bunker

  • Dramatic !!!
    this is a french prison house for young ?
    This is the french urban political ?
    Who is this architect, why done he this ?

  • Dave

    Sorry. LAN Architecture did not get the memo that 1960’s Butalist Architecture was an unpopular failure. What’s the definition of people who repeat mistakes — insanity?

    The only thing successful about this butt-ugly shell of a fortress is their ability to generate negative publicity. Congrats on that depressing victory.

  • edward

    Nothing like béton brut to get the wusses knickers in a bunch.

  • themark

    How utterly depressing, in a sort of Architect’s monumental “ode to self” kind of way. More of a tribute to the sarcophagus at Chernobyl that a toy museum.

  • Darkroom

    It takes a rather more intelligent form of sophistication to understand the beauty of this sculpture, that I am sad to say many of the above commentators do not possess. A delightful interpretation of how architecture does not have to rely upon obvious literal representation. Maybe all the public deserves would be a coloured fun house and no more thought than that. Well done LAN Architecture for not treating the public as morons!

  • I like it.

  • francesco

    darkroom i’m agree with you!
    check the website of LAN Architecture, you will find some interiors of toy’s library… and some others works… realy cool!!!!!

  • One

    Difficult site, depressive exterior, no information on its interior… strange impression

  • julien

    The bruter the better. Love it!

  • Juca

    very nice.
    finally a building with a kid-related program that is not screaming bright colors.

  • Pones

    At first it looks depressing, but that’s only because it reflects my previous conception of brutalism. But on a closer look, it’s refreshing and still playful like a box for a new toy, like a cocoon with a only a wonder of what beautiful butterfly could be inside. It stands apart from the surrounding social structures and sticks out like a red balloon or a polka dot within its context. Its not revealing or tempting – it is what it is and they didn’t demolish a building to build this facade. I like it.