The debauchery of Amsterdam’s Red Light District is notorious the world over: sex shops, peep shows, cannabis cafes, and brothels line the cobblestone streets, to which tourists flock for legalized indulgences. Coming to the rescue of those who overindulge is white store, a new concept shop recently opened in the heart of the Red Light District. It sells nothing but vitamin-infused water.
“Since the Red Light District is an area well known for its nightlife, our client had the idea that this store would be a nice remedy for all the drinking and partying going on there,” Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder of architecture firm XML tell Co.Design in an email. “The vitamin supplement in the drink is set to help to reduce the negative effects of too much alcohol consumption.” The shop offers an oasis of wholesome, minimal near-nothingness in the surrounding bacchanalia.
“The Red Light District in Amsterdam is currently transforming from an area dominated by the sex industry to a more programmatic, diverse neighborhood,” Mulder says. The store is part of this gradual transformation. “Our challenge was to come up with a design that could attract people that pass by and yet communicate that it’s something completely different than its neighbors.” They decided to drench the space in white light, a calm counterpoint to the red glow that saturates the surrounding area (red lights were historically used on the signs of brothels).
The low-ceilinged space is tiny, so they decided to focus the design on a single feature, a 30-foot long translucent bar made out of polycarbonate plates and lit from within with LED tubes. It riffs on the traditional dispensary counter in pharmacies, but pushes it to an extreme length. A mirror at the end of the shop makes the bar appear twice as long. Behind the bar, staff in white lab coats dispense the replenishing drinks to drunken revelers.
In terms of business, it might be hard for a store that sells water to compete with neighbors selling drugs and sex. But in an area where vices are the norm, maybe such a tame business will seem an exotic novelty.