February 1, 2020

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.

Clients sip herbal tea seated before a collage of tinted acrylic rods evoking a frozen landscape. Photography by Kuomin Lee.

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.

The paint color was selected for its soothing effect. Photography by Kuomin Lee.

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.

Project Sources: Maison Dada: Chairs. Pandomo: Flooring. Athene Tech; LG Lighting: Lighting. Flugger: Paint.

Keep scrolling to view more images of this project >

In the reception area of Aqua Health Clinic, a built-in acrylic bench incorporates an LED-lit installation of moss and min­erals by Lee Chi. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
A frosted acrylic partition delineates reception. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
Hiroshi Sugimoto photographs inspired an installation of acrylic cubes filled with dyed water. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
A grid of acrylic-enclosed herbs appoints a treatment room. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
The sheet-metal archway suggests a sea cave. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
The corridor leads to nine treatment rooms. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
Additional botanicals meet a punched copper screen in a restroom. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
LEDs illuminate a glass-enclosed hair-care room. Photography by Kuomin Lee.

> See more from the February 2020 issue of Interior Design

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