Time stands still when you step into Vancouver’s AE.R Skinlab — a particularly good thing upon entering a cosmetic dermatology clinic. With a palette of tranquil greys and a lobby installation that resembles millennia-old stalactites, the space is undeniably soothing. It was inspired in part by its location in Arthur Erickson’s Waterfall Building, which has its own calming effect. “When you walk from the street to the courtyard, you pass by a poetic waterfall installation,” says principal architect Michael Leckie, whose team at Leckie Studio developed AE.R’s interiors around notions of materiality, erosion and weathering.
That waterfall motif can be seen in the striated finish of the Vancouver Island–sourced marble walls (Edward Burtynsky’s Quarries photography series was another influence) and in the fluted-glass store-front. But it is most prominent in the reception area’s ceiling installation, which was a collaboration between Leckie Studio and Tangible Interaction. Soft, cascading filaments cut from 244-centimetre-wide sheets of Tyvek hang in an intricate comb pattern — the result of a rigorous process of parametric design and 3D modelling. Yet there were surprises: When Leckie first flicked on the room’s lighting, the Tyvek gave off a purple glow. To correct this, his team removed several portions and added a desaturating yellow filter over the room’s LED flat panels.
Drawn to the unorthodox, Leckie was also influenced by artist Matthew Barney’s film The Order from Cremaster Cycle 3, which deals with the body as both a biological instrument and a sculptural tool. “Mythology, evolution, transformation and bodily augmentation…I can easily draw a comparison between my fascination with that work and this design,” Leckie says. He points to the iconic image of Barney in a large, fluffy hat — one that now bears a clear resemblance to AE.R’s ceiling.
To exit the clinic’s cloistered space and re-enter the world is like leaving an ethereal dermatological cave; it’s no wonder Leckie believes the concept of time is fundamentally tied to luxury. “It is one of the few things in life that feels absolutely finite,” he says.
Leckie Studio turns to geology to envision a rejuvenating clinic.