From the Looks of It: Innovation Eye Clinic

An innovative ceiling feature created to address residual building issues became an inspiration throughout the design.

Innovation Eye Clinic, a 1,400-sq.-ft. optometry clinic and eyewear retailer located in Kitchener, Ont. presented me and my team at Atelier Sun with a variety of interesting dilemmas. Instead of designing a conventional eyewear retail and combined clinic space, we planned to showcase a new retail experience focusing on the mood of coziness and feeling of contentment. We believe that the feeling of hospitality needs to not only to be expressed in restaurants and hotels, but also revealed in retail and residential spaces.

Photography by Joel Esposito

Considering the commercial unit is located at ground level of a condominium with overhanging canopies, our design approach was to emphasize the spatial experience, a connection to the street and the integration of mood lighting. When we first visited the space, we noticed there were various concrete drop beams in the unit: at first an impediment, but we took the drop beam character as inspiration and created a continuous ceiling feature composed of wooden slats and suspended at varying heights. A group of linear lights were designed to be embedded in the wooden slats to not only provide general lighting to the space, but also highlight the details of the ceiling structure as it fluctuates in elevation. We wanted the spotlighted details of the ceiling structure to add a series of interesting atmospheres to the space.

A feature wall covered with wood panels from wall to ceiling at the end of the retail environment was designed to create a wooden niche for the reception area, while at the same time infuse a sense of spatial layering and order into the space by contrasting with the surrounding white plaster walls. Wood toned display shelves and backdrop panels were lined to create a consistent visually appealing line around the retail space. Highlighted with the warm glow, we wanted each element to be carefully crafted to create this unique retail experience that is welcoming and memorable.

Photography by Joel Esposito

When the project was completed and our photographer, Joel Esposito, and myself were capturing the space, we decided to keep the photos simple and focus on the atmosphere and experience of the space. As COVID-19 has led to a surge in e-commerce and accelerated digital transformation, retail has started to transform itself into more of an experience hub than just a place to buy stuff. Retailers and brands want their customers to be part of the brand experience in the physical store, which is what we wanted to capture from our design and photography. We want the space to inspire and captivate, to invite visitors to immerse themselves in the experience of the space, and to elevate the brand through those experiences.

Andrew Sun is the principal of Atelier Sun, a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary design studio that focuses on architecture and interior design.