Alternative Wellness

By Michelle M. Havich

Current Meditation photos courtesy of FITCH and Relentless Inc.


When Toronto-based figure3 was approached by Surterra Therapeutics to design a medical marijuana dispensary in Tampa, Fla., the firm reached out to actual caregivers and users of medical marijuana for insights. Positive thoughts about the products included nature, compassion and connection. “We tried to find the connection point,” says Mardi Najafi, senior team leader with figure3. “And the connection point right at the core center was food.”

Think healthy, organic food; gathering around a table; good memories. Using that, the team focused on creating a more homey experience in the main consultation area, which features a communal island with stools around it, resembling a comfortable kitchen. “It’s not a sales counter, me versus you. We’re there to collaborate and engage,” Najafi says.

Warm toned woods and other natural materials and concrete, along with a neutral and soothing color palette, put customers at ease.

For the product side of the store, where dummy versions of items including creams, patches and oils are displayed (laws don’t allow actual products to be out on the floor), the store resembles a garden, surrounded by an open “trellis.” “It’s like the structure of a greenhouse or your back patio,” Najafi says.

User feedback and research also was key for Columbus, Ohio-based FITCH’s design of Current Meditation, a modern meditation studio in Phoenix.

FITCH’s Phoenix studio was approached about the prospect of bringing meditation to the masses. “They asked, ‘How can we bring mindfulness into a franchise-able retail practice, and affect the culture?’” recalls Jay Adams, design director, FITCH.

In their research, the design team immersed themselves in the mindfulness of meditation, holding classes at every meeting with different guides.

After more research and user interviews, the design team moved toward the idea of “a local mental gym that felt like an upscale space that would give [people] the yearning to come in,” Adams says.

It all came down to the studio, which is an acoustically sealed space with a platform for the guide to sit on while he or she leads people through the meditation session. The guide is in full control of the lighting in the space, which is designed to give people the feeling that the space is infinite.

Outside of the studio, a decompression zone features lockers where people can write their pre-session expectations and after-session thoughts. A communal area with a table and tea encourages visitors to gather and talk about their meditation experience or different classes.

“It was important for this space to feel human. If it was too processed, too clean, too linear, it wouldn’t allow the person to give meaning to their experience,” Adams says. “So we had to have natural finishes.” These finishes included a mosaic wall of repurposed white oak squares and a warm tile floor.

For each of these brands, having customer opinions guide the design process resulted in atmospheres that are comfortable and welcoming, both mentally and physically.


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