Waterfrom Design Gives Aqua Health Clinic in Beijing an Edgy Aesthetic
Building on millenniums of wisdom, ancient Chinese medicine tends to the human body’s vital energy, or chi, using herbs, acupuncture, and massage. The Aqua Health Clinic in Beijing’s trendy Sanlitun district builds on that antiquity, but is contemporary and cutting-edge in appearance, courtesy of Waterfrom Design.
The 3,000-square-foot center, which is part wellness clinic, part cosmetic spa, and the firm share a fascination with water—their names even contain the same Chinese characters. So, naturally, Waterfrom principal Nic Lee infused the project with a clean style, one that runs counter to expectations about eastern medicine. “It couldn’t just be old cabinets smelling of aged herbs,” he says. Instead, he and project manager Richard Kuo tasked botanical artist Lee Chi to arrange nearly 100 kinds of medicinal herbs and minerals, such as angelica and amethyst, in grids of acrylic display boxes illuminated by LEDs in one of the treatment rooms as well as in a restroom. Similarly, in reception, moss and more minerals are housed in a clear acrylic bench. “Transparency was an important idea for us,” Kuo adds.
Acrylic, glass, and clean lines continue throughout Aqua Health. The glassed-in hair-care room, for example, would look right at home in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, water references are everywhere, too. The corridor off which the nine treatment rooms are has an archway clad in sheet metal, the result suggestive of a sea cave. Elsewhere, walls are either lined with myriad clear cubes filled with blue liquid or fitted with thousands of slender blue rods. Both were inspired by Hiroshi Sugimoto’s sea-scape photography, which “freezes water in time,” Kuo notes. The idea of preserving nature is present throughout the project, just as clients hope the healing treatments do for their health and beauty.
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