Berlin – How should designers respond to the coming age of robots? By placing them in a context of human warmth and nostalgia, says Germany’s Studio Aisslinger.
For Apotheke, a new premium pharmacy in Berlin’s Schultheiss neighbourhood, the studio’s designers imagine the future while revisiting the past, by combining cutting-edge technology with a familiar, Eames-inspired aesthetic.The 250-m2 interior showcases a robot arm that moves speedily along the shelves, selecting and delivering medicines efficiently and precisely (reassuringly, its picks are checked by a human pharmacist prior to sale).
‘The technology is actually quite common; many pharmacies have it,’ said Studio Aisslinger’s Monika Losos, ‘but usually it’s hidden in the stock area, as though it had nothing to do with us humans. Yet technology now permeates our whole existence. We should accept that and find ways to coexist with robots, instead of glamorizing or condemning them. This is why we reveal technology that’s usually hidden, putting it out in the open, into the heart of what happens in a pharmacy.’
In doing so, the designers encountered some resistance – not from the client, but from technologists. ‘It was difficult to convince the robot supplier to open up the claddings and make them glazed,’ explained Losos. ‘The engineers apparently don’t want anybody to see the heart of the machine.’ After a lot of talking, they were convinced, but for Losos the initial hesitation revealed ‘how difficult it is to really change our understanding of, and our attitude towards, this kind of technology and its role in daily life’. She said the challenge was to get ‘beyond the boundaries of the classic pharmacy layout. We didn’t want to create just another white background for the products, but an inviting space that would facilitate face-to-face communication and personal interaction.’
We wanted to rediscover the apothecary as a unique analogue experience
The solution was to combine technology with a deeply human atmosphere and tactility. ‘We wanted to rediscover the apothecary as a unique analogue experience,’ said Losos. Mid-century modern is an unexpected aesthetic for a pharmacy. It adds warmth and a nostalgic feeling through the use of wood, glass, and an organic palette of natural browns, greens and creams.