Berlin – Nightlife is to Berlin what shopping is to Paris or food to Rome – people flock to the city specifically for it. Berlin’s after-hours reputation is dotted with tales from otherworldly clubs and bars so visually inebriating that the actual means of becoming so seems secondary; one only has to wait until sun goes down to escape from mundanity.
So what would happen if you could borrow some of that stimulating ambiance and apply it to the spaces you’d least imagine? To make, say, going to the dentist, a source of excitement, as opposed to a drudgery? This is exactly what Berlin-based Studio Karhard did for The Urban Dentist, a new office in the German capital – and the space recently earned the 2019 award for Frame’s Healthcare Centre of the Year.
There were none the wiser to make the bridge between hospitality and institutions: only a year after the studio’s birth in 2003, founders Thomas Karsten and Alexandra Erhard designed Berghain, Berlin’s reigning – and legendarily hard to enter – club. Their contribution to the city’s bar and club scene has only multiplied since, but their work – clearly – is not limited to recreational spaces.
’Three young dentists asked us to design a dentist office that didn’t look like a typical dentist office,’ said Karsten. ‘They wanted to make the patients feel comfortable and fearless.’
To do so, Karhard and Erhard avoided using white and glossy surfaces to achieve an abstracted, enticing healthcare space. By using a bold colour palette and programmable light walls, the duo was able to create veritable visual distractions for patients – certainly welcome during the more unpleasant aspects of dental work. The environment is both industrial and indulgent; rough construction elements balance out the candied detailing. Using natural materials, Studio Karhard underlines the craftsmanship of the interior products – they selected eco-friendly furniture, and nearly everything was locally designed and built.
In institutional spaces that rarely serve up surprises other than the unexpected cavity, the atmosphere of spatial ambiguity does just the trick: walking in to the 360-sq-m space, you get the feeling that you’re in a concept store or a cocktail bar – definitely not a dentist’s office, until, of course, you realise that that’s exactly where you are. But keep this in mind: Studio Karhard accomplished the client’s wishes without needing to turn to visual gimmicks.
Studio Karhard gave the dentist a new identity, so that patients are treated more as guests
‘Studio Karhard gave the dentist a new identity, so that patients are treated more as guests,’ reported the jury after the live judging of the nominees. ‘An unusual material palette and an efficient use of space succeed in making the experience desirable and attracting a younger generation.’
In 2014, a Eurostat survey revealed that, in Germany, people aged 25-34 lagged the most in having had consulted a dentist that year: at 76.9 per cent, every other age group topped the statistic by five to six per cent. It almost goes without saying that spaces like The Urban Dentist will help Berlin’s millennials catch up.