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Gensler and TOCA launch new football entertainment concept

Gensler has partnered with TOCA Social to create a ‘first-of-its-kind’ leisure and hospitality offering centred around the globally adored phenomena: football.

25/08/2021 3 min read
Midfield Bar Area

TOCA Social had a vision to create a totally new entertainment concept that would transform the way we come together to socialise and play – creating accessible and interactive football-based games that offer players of all ages and abilities the chance to ‘kick it’ with their friends.

Gensler previously collaborated with TOCA Social to establish a concept blueprint for a ‘first-of-its-kind’ football-based entertainment offering – with components of the prototype applied to their new space located in London’s iconic O2 Arena.

‘This was a collaborative process with the client from the first day to the last,’ the team at Gensler tells us. ‘We worked with the client pre-concept to develop the design and experience strategy in the first instance, in order to understand their aspirations, as well as assist in building the brand drivers and goals (as it’s a new global concept for the client team).’

‘Following that, we were engaged to create a concept blueprint or ‘kit of parts’ that outlined the key concept/design elements and critical touchpoints needed for the TOCA social ecosystem and experience (which could then be adapted or modified to sites that came online). The kit of parts was then applied to the O2 (with some site-specific tweaks) to bring TOCA Social to life.’

The venue features 17 bespoke interactive boxes, meticulously designed to offer unique augmented reality gameplay for people of all skill levels, and an unmatched social experience behind the touch line with three world class bars, two selfie booths, a desert room and a bathtub in the main area.

The design was driven by the approach to re-create and channel the energy and language of the match and field into the spatial experience, in an inclusive experience for fans and non-fans alike. Visitors are invited to experience the journey of a footballer through the clever play on space typologies found in football stadiums.

Gensler has created a ‘field of play’ that brought the language of the match to life in the space through abstracting and manipulating the role of line work and colour in sport, to create a dynamic space that grounds the environment in the experience of play.

The user journey is designed to mimic that of a footballer’s: first arriving into the locker room before entering the tunnel, where excitement and anticipation is built through a multi-sensory build up, then opening out into the visually and experientially energetic ‘field’ where guests can engage in gameplay of the boxes, or drink and eat at one of the many bars designed around the geometry of the pitch. Post-match, guests can ‘cool down’ at the Cool Down bar designed as a more intimate, softer space.

Colour and materiality were key to creating a dynamic space that referenced not only the role of colour in sport, but also provided durability and performance for the type of activity taking place and the F&B/hospitality nature of the offering.

Durable materials were required for the boxes to withstand repetitive ball kicking, while bar areas and seating were required to feel inviting and soft. Geometric upholstery on seating and coloured tile grout on bars was used to reinforce the playfulness of the line work of the field, while tan leathers and shoelaces around mirrors in WC’s are a small nod to the construction and materiality of old footballs and boots.

Furniture selections and seating types had to cater to varying typologies and user modes throughout the experience. Box banquettes and Midfield high table seating were designed at a height and depth to encourage ‘perching’, so guests could be ready at any minute to jump up and take part in the gameplay. In contrast, furniture and low seating around the Cool Down Bar was designed to wind down, with bar tops made from recyclable plastics.

‘TOCA Social is grounded in fostering belonging through activity and socially led experiences – social spaces, new social functions and the rise in need for socialisation across varying types of environments has been increasing across market sectors, with the pandemic re-affirming this need,’ adds the team. ‘Experiences like TOCA are more important than ever to bring people back together and re-connect post-pandemic, as well as offer a bit of relief in the form of fun during challenging times. It’s a true embodiment of our client’s vision and appeals to a wide audience – whether football fans or not!’

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