The KU64 dental clinic is a dual level, 945sq m space in Berlin, taking its name from its prestigious Kurfürstendamm address. The ambience is more that of a stylish members' bar than the staid utilitarian atmosphere you might expect from a traditional dental surgery. Futuristic and strangely sumptuous in monochrome yellow, the rounded, sand-dune-inspired surrounds are designed to put your mind at ease and create a powerful aesthetic experience.
"We weren't interested in creating a space that actually looked like a beach ? it was about translating and referencing the essence of this natural environment," says Thomas Willemeit, one of the three directors of Graft. "We designed a dune landscape, taking people out of the dentist and onto the beach. The space was designed as a continuous landscape with the floors, walls and ceilings carrying the beach metaphor."
Colour is a very important part of the overall design, creating a bright, positive visitor experience. "We chose the colour yellow for the space because it is basically a happy colour. We were all afraid the colour could be too much though, but it ended up working so well - there is no chance you could think this place was a surgery, we broke the mould," says Willemeit.
The original interior of the space was gutted, and it took two and half years to complete the cocoon-like surgery. Dr Stefan Ziegler, founder of KU64, explains the thinking behind the project. "We wanted to create a space that would not resemble a dental practice at all. That rather than feel, look or smell like a clinic, would remind people of a hotel or cafe - a future-focused space that could make dental treatment a positive experience," he says. "We wanted the space to be light, sunny, friendly - be more like a wellness clinic. The end result reflects our identity and philosophy - young, democratic, high-tech and high-touch."
KU64 has a client list that includes A-list American and European celebrities, as well as customers from around Germany enticed to come and have a check-up. "Service, service and service - and the five-star aesthetic - sets KU64 apart and attracts clients," explains manager Uwe Meritz. ?"The most important thing for us is to consistently provide excellent service and to offer the best technology ? that?s why it was important for the clinic to be visually different from others."
Various rooms accommodate different types of treatments, including teeth-whitening areas where you can watch DVDs on a device that is strapped on like a mask. "The innovative, complex design of this space, and its bold colour scheme, reflects that KU64 are a young, non-hierarchical team, with dentists and technicians using the newest technology," says Meritz.
Graft is all about promoting user-friendly yet technically complex design that questions expected aesthetics. "We took on this job because the client was sympathetic to our vision and intentions, and we liked the challenge of creating a dental clinic that looks and feels nothing like you would expect,?" explains Willemeit. "We wondered why there should be any expectations of what a dental clinic should be like. We questioned the fundamental notion of a surgery - we wanted to create a world you would like to inhabit that inspires a positive energy and sense of wellbeing."
Through high-tech computer programs, Graft has been able to construct spaces and forms related to natural scenarios that, says Willemeit, "are more connected to the human body and emotions than abstract systems of architecture." A graphic print surges across the walls of the walkway connecting the spaces - at first abstract, on closer inspection an image becomes visible of a man and woman in motion, on opposite sides of the corridor. The design breaks up the yellow interior and adds a level of youthful energy to the space.
Every detail of the interior is carefully considered. Red, sunken reclining chairs in the waiting room allow visitors to lie back, relax and sip a latte overlooking the terrace and leafy street beyond. "We liked Dr Ziegler?s approach to dentistry, wanting to develop a clinic focusing on tailored service and a sense of wellbeing for the patient, with a positive atmosphere and atypical space that would illustrate this," says Willemeit. With offices in Los Angeles and Beijing, Graft is renowned for its unusual take on commercial projects across continents, including the award-winning Hotel Q! in Berlin - the project that won patronage from actor Brad Pitt, who employed Graft?s services on a series of hotels in LA. Arguably the city's premier designer hotel, Hotel Q! features minimalist interiors that flow using flexible materials that align with walls, curves and ceilings ? much like KU64.
"Building KU64 was actually a big challenge," explains Willemeit. "We used simple, cheap construction methods, but in unusual ways - such as drywall technology employed with steel and aluminium frameworks." Graft's KU64 is a playful, integrated environment that has achieved its goal of encouraging reluctant patients and creating a unique visitor experience through good design. "Graft stands for a more accessible architecture," Willemeit says. "We don?t like the straight box that needs furniture to appear finished and comfortable, we want you to 'jump' on the architecture, to touch it and feel a part of it. We don?t believe architecture should be about architects? intellectual fantasies - it?s for everyone, and it?s for people to enjoy."
Creating the kind of dental practice that people really want to spend time in is no mean feat. Berlin-based architecture practice Graft has turned the KU64 clinic into a beach-inspired haven, creating a calm yet visually exciting environment for employees and visitors alike, finds Indigo Clarke.
Quelle: On Office Magazine, Januar 2007
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