Portfolio: Columbia Care

New York's first medical marijuana dispensary debuts in Manhattan’s Union Square
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Posted April 21, 2016

When New York-based design firm RPG was tasked with creating the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Manhattan’s Union Square, the firm knew the stakes were high. The flagship needed not only to serve the functional needs of Columbia Care LLC’s (New York) often chronically ill customers, but also set the aesthetic tone for its fleet of 10 existing dispensaries around the country, all while meeting U.S. Department of Health & Human Services requirements.

The space goes beyond the institutional feel of medical facilities, while steering clear of the sometimes campy feel of recreational dispensaries. To create a sophisticated but comfortable environment, RPG employed muted colors, warm woods and touches of bronze throughout its waiting area, pharmacy center and private consultation rooms.

The reception area sets the design tone with its slatted wooden wall feature juxtaposed with a dimensional bronze illuminated logo. The waiting area offers a variety of seating options, including banquettes with removable L-shaped tables, and individual chairs as well as multi-height tables that accommodate wheelchairs. “We wanted to foster a sense of community between the patients, giving them an opportunity to feel comfortable and take away their focus on being ill and being at a pharmacy,” says RPG Creative Director Karla Lopez.

Indirect pendant lighting is set with gels to make the space feel relaxing. “We wanted to steer away from anything that was too cool, focusing on 3000 kelvin or 2700 kelvin color temperatures to make a really soothing impression,” Lopez says. The floors are low-maintenance porcelain with a natural texture.

While the medical facility can only sell tinctures and oils, rather than the actual flower, Columbia Care’s leafy logo reinforces the product’s roots. Planters filled with succulents add warmth to the contemporary design while also evoking the core product and providing a serene focal point for waiting customers. Visitors can consume information via video walls, large wall graphics illuminated by halos or iPads.

Given the highly regulated nature of the four-month project, there were a number of security protocols the design firm had to meet, including a secure entry vestibule, locked doors and passageways, timed alarms and dozens of cameras. RPG integrated those features into the design to make them nonthreatening and unobtrusive.

“The decisions we made about the materials, the fixtures and the furniture focused on creating a sophisticated concept where patients feel comfortable and where there is definitely an attention to details and design,” Lopez says. “It gives them a sense of confidence in the therapy they will be receiving.”