Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
A jaunt to the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart may send you running to have your vision checked. Look up to the second floor of a neoclassical limestone building right on the square, and you'll see an enormous floating eye: It's mounted on the ceiling at Kästner Optik, an optometry center recently updated by the Ippolito Fleitz Group.
This two-story facility was designed 10 years ago by HG Merz—also responsible for the exhibition space at the southwestern German city's Mercedes-Benz Museum. At Kästner Optik, the eyewear shop on the ground level remains unchanged. But the 850-square-foot upstairs consultation and examination areas have a whole new look, completed by architects Peter Ippolito and Gunter Fleitz in a mere six weeks.
The ceiling of the consultation zone is the location of the eye—actually a fluorescent light box 13 feet across, covered by a digital print and translucent plastic film. Courtesy of strategically placed mirrors, the eye is visible not only from outside but also from the shop at the bottom of the stairs. An image of a blinking eye, changing from young to old and male to female, appears in a corner, on three LCD screens. Echoing the eye theme, a ray motif in stainless steel is inlaid into the epoxy-resin floor, while one wall of the stairwell is similarly detailed.
Floor and walls are light gray. Service desks, display cases, and tables are MDF lacquered in pale taupes. White faux leather wraps seating cubes and swivel chairs by Patrick Norguet. "The atmosphere communicates precision and care," Ippolito says. "But without the white coat."
An attention-grabbing interruption to the calm, the clear glass doors between the consultation and examination areas are a flurry of white block letters large and small. Fleitz calls it a "wild and fragmented flow of information relating to optometry."
The soothing mood resumes in the three exam rooms, essentially a row of boxes with charcoal-gray walls, ceilings, and flooring. A single white examination chair, the only piece of furniture in each room, has the necessary projector set into the wall directly above. ("Projectors are usually quite ugly," Ippolito explains.) Because the partitions between the rooms stand 8 inches shy of the ceiling, the same two fluorescent strip fixtures can run from one end of the row to the other.
Examination almost complete, customers return to the consultation area, where a video camera records the distance between their pupils. The optometrist then uses this measurement to position lenses in their frames more precisely. Finally, the camera captures the customer's profile from several angles and transmits the images to an LCD screen for review. Seeing well and looking good.