A massive light-filled loft on 5th Avenue is a prime canvas for interior architecture. Unless, of course, the client brief requests eight treatment rooms, a nutrition center, two cryotherapy care centers, a reception area, a retail area, and a few support spaces to go along with it. Then, things get considerably more complicated.
These were the opportunity and the accompanying complications architect Brandon Haw faced when he was tapped to design the New York Dermatology Group (NYDG) Integral Health and Wellness flagship office by his friend Paolo Cassina, the Italian designer. “We grappled with the idea of how we could put this much activity in this wonderful, big space and yet somehow hang on to the light and volume,” Haw said. “With that in mind, I began to play around with the idea of these light, ethereal curtains around the treatment rooms. As the idea of the curtains started to gel, we asked, ‘What if we created a pod and put that in the middle, so that you come into the reception area along the very large windows overlooking 5th Avenue and then follow that line of windows around to your treatment room?’”
Haw began sketching a wavy line suggestive of such a curtain and was considering a modular screen system when he and Cassina spoke with Fabio Rombaldoni of Sailing, who had worked on a number of residential projects as well as yacht interiors.
The trio came up with the concept of using a yacht-hull maker to fabricate four different panel molds that joined together seamlessly to form an organic, wavy pod in the center of the space. “It was custom-made by hand in Italy, and it was quite amazing,” Haw explained. “The panels are imbued with color and the consistency by the process itself with no external spraying or painting.” The opalescent white fiberglass panels were mapped out in Italy at full scale like a giant puzzle and then exported to the United States where they were assembled.
Haw and his team paired the subtle, shimmery white pod with bronze fittings and used the existing industrial dark-wood flooring. Then they lowered the ceiling plane by creating a bespoke wood baffle so that the eye would be drawn up to the edge of the 11-foot-tall pod and then to the sleek wood planks. To continue the airy aesthetic in the enclosed treatment rooms, Haw selected pulverized quartz flooring that is bright and a little sparkly but extremely durable and easy to clean.
To outfit the rest of the office, Haw and Cassina delved into what they felt a wellness space should be: “sumptuous, luxurious, comfortable,” Haw said, where people feel “comforted, but at the same time get a sense of clinical efficiency.” To truly embody those descriptors from wall to wall, Haw and Cassina designed a line of contract sofas, seating, and side tables specifically for the NYDG office that will be commercially available later this year. The furniture is sleek, with unexpected cutouts and an emphasis on smaller love seats, which accommodate one or two persons, rather than long sofas. (You might have a friend with you, but when was the last time you cozied up with random fellow patients? Exactly.) “The way I come at architecture and design is all about the use of the space and lifting the spirits of the people functioning within the spaces—both the clients who are coming in and the employees who are there every day. Timeless elegance was at the forefront of this project, and there was a great attention to detail.”
This attention to detail and creative process make the paradoxical space—open and private, light and dark, comfortable and clinical—look and feel just right.