December 25, 2017

Waterfrom Design Upends Tradition at Taiwan’s Molecure Pharmacy

Nic Lee has honed his design experience on three continents. He spent time in Denmark, as an exchange student, and the U.S., getting his interior design masters at Pratt Institute and later joining M Moser Associates. He then returned to Asia to work for a local firm before founding Waterfrom Design in Shanghai and his native Taipei. The nine-year-old award-winning studio is known for experimental projects shot through with sly humor and irreverence.

Cobblestones clad the walls behind the shelving. Photography by Kuomin Lee.

That sensibility resonated with a third-generation pharmacist who wanted to upend tradition. Lee’s plan for Molecure—a 1,300-square-foot drugstore, its name a mash-up of molecule and cure—was to steer clear of sterile laboratory chic. Instead, he inserted bright cells of color into the steel-and-glass display shelving, lit by warm coppered-iron pendants and backed by cobblestone-clad walls that provide contrasting texture. He jettisoned the intimidating standard-issue pharmacy counter in favor of a communal table with an open dispensing area and an iPad-based consulting system. Above, an “urban forest” of plants is suspended from wires. The counter itself is fabricated of stacked wood, its base the trunk of a 100-year-old tree. “My aesthetic comes from approximating what is natural,” Lee notes.

The pharmacy’s DNA, though, is the coppered-iron staircase that spirals helix-like through its center. The twisting form leads to a mezzanine level, its floor laser cut with triangular perforations resembling molecules, casting dappled shadows akin to sun filtered through leaves.

A coppered iron staircase spirals through the center of the pharmacy. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
The laboratory table is made of stacked solid wood, poised on the cortex of a tree trunk. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
Display shelving is a grid of acrylic sandwiching colored paper. Photography by Kuomin Lee.
Plants suspended from the ceiling reference a forest. Photography by Kuomin Lee.

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