Alda Ly Architecture Designs New York Flagship for Alto, a Contemporary Neighborhood Pharmacy

New York, NY—Alda Ly Architecture (ALA) has partnered with Alto Pharmacy to design the telehealth pharmacy’s flagship New York City location, which provides a uniquely personalized experience tailored to female fertility services. Throughout the space, ALA’s design fuses Alto’s branding with details inspired by historic apothecaries. The result is a warmer, more human pharmacy, instead of the typically cold, clinical, and corporate contemporary pharmacy space.

Based in New York, ALA has made a name for itself through past partnerships with innovative startups and healthcare companies such as The Wing, ThirdLove, and Parsley Health. Their collaboration with Alto continues this trajectory and also marks new territory—it is the studio’s first pharmacy project. 

ALA began the design process for Alto’s NYC flagship last spring, several months into the pandemic. The prospect of devising a groundbreaking pharmacy known for personalized patient support and fast medication delivery intrigued the firm, especially during a health crisis. “During the lockdown period, the service Alto provided became particularly valuable, and we wanted to help design a space for them to help them succeed in the New York market,” says ALA founder and principal Alda Ly. “We also loved their brand position and emphasis on human connection. We’re passionate about helping brands—especially startups—create signature spaces.”

Alto’s New York flagship pharmacy manifests these goals. The layout is defined by fluid transitions between public and private areas, with an emphasis on ease and accessibility. The front door, which faces East 40th Street, opens directly into the open-format common space, where patients move seamlessly between a large waiting lounge, small seating area, retail display, and reception area/pharmacy counter. A custom ribbed glass sliding window, similar to those in historic New York apothecaries, connects the public spaces to the back-of-house, allowing customers to see the pharmacists at work—a move that encourages connection and builds trust. Doors to the right of the pharmacy counter lead to the more private consult and conference rooms, designed for personalized conversations and care. 

Throughout the New York pharmacy, strategies are applied to encourage comfort and calm. Colors and materials were chosen to align with Alto’s branding while also alluding to nature. The rounded service desk is clad in a wood-look laminate topped with white and grey veined Caesarstone, and the meeting tables are walnut and white marble. The waiting area is painted sky blue (Benjamin Moore Polar Ice), moldings are cloud white, and the conference and consultation rooms are pale green (Benjamin Moore Lime Ricky). Lighting is warm and diffused throughout, with brass-accented pendants and sconces used to create interest and depth with another nod to old NYC apothecaries.

To convey themes of healing and human touch important to Alto’s brand, ALA also employed friendly, soft forms and natural materials with inherent structure and support. “This both encourages reassurance and comfort, while at the same time conveying safety, stability and reliability,” explains Tania Chau, ALA’s Director of Interior Design. Upholstered in a soft palette of blues, the selection of high-backed chairs and couches that anchor the waiting lounge create protective quiet spaces, embodying the idea of refuge. This approach is especially important given Alto New York’s female fertility focus. “Fertility treatments can be grueling, with some treatments requiring shots daily for 10-12 days. Knowing that, we wanted to design a space that would make women feel comfortable, supported, and however private or public she wanted to be,” says Chau. ​ 

ALA also celebrated Alto’s role as a neighborhood cornerstone by incorporating antique mirrors, decorative moldings, shelving, and tile that allude to historic apothecaries and their role as community gathering places, all while retaining a clean, contemporary aesthetic. “We see the space as a physical extension of Alto’s brand, and we consider both the experiential as well as visual qualities of the brand when we design the space. Clear circulation; visual transparency from outside to the working pharmacist; connecting modern and traditional; soft, supportive forms and shapes; and the signature blue and green palette all help create the Alto experience,” says Ly. 

“Just as your local pharmacy or store is a cornerstone of your life and your neighborhood, Alto is deeply connected and committed to your health and your community. To foster that connection and encourage approachability, we employ visual transparency at key moments,” she continues.

Photos by Stephanie Hedges.

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Project Credits:

Project: Alto Pharmacy

Client: Alto

Location: 100 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017

Area: 5,000 SF

Status: Projected completion December 2, 2020

Program: Retail & office

Architect & Interior Design : Alda Ly Architecture PLLC

Team: Alda Ly, Tania Chau, Marissa Feddema, Daisy Hook

Contractor: Michilli Inc. 

Lighting Design: ml studio, inc. 

MEP Engineer: MG Engineering D.P.C.


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About Alda Ly Architecture

Alda Ly Architecture (ALA) was founded in 2017 when groundbreaking co-working platform The Wing tapped Ly to design its East Coast and California locations. ALA continues to serve a growing number of entrepreneurs and startups as well as established organizations looking to rethink traditional retail, healthcare, office, and cultural spaces. ALA is a recognized thought leader in biophilic design and has been featured nationally and internationally in publications such as Metropolis, Contract, Interior Design, etc.

The New York-based studio’s long list of clients includes Bloomberg, Red Bull, Princeton University, Rent the Runway, Christian Louboutin and women’s healthcare platform, Tia.

While ALA’s projects range from those with multi-million dollar construction budgets to start-ups building their very first headquarters, they all share ALA’s minimalist and playful design vocabulary, and seamlessly combine comfort, wellness, smart planning and fresh interior design concepts.

To arrive at these thoughtful, custom solutions, ALA treats each as an opportunity to foster a client’s creativity. Because the studio often gives form to services and business models that have few spatial precedents, it starts each project with a discovery phase in which an organization’s founders, team members, and users share their individual experiences with that brand; ALA’s ethnographic research becomes the basis of programming and functionality, as well as concepts for layouts and finishes.

Ly and her team pride themselves on deep listening and hands-on collaboration in this process, and the studio is committed to expressing every commission’s potential within the constraints of time and budget.

Alda Ly Architecture is a certified Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) with NYC.

Alda Ly is founder and principal of ALA. Born in New Zealand and raised in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, she would watch her cabinetmaker father draw kitchen elevations and accompany him to open houses to see how other people shaped their spaces. From the moment she studied freehand drawing as a UC Berkeley undergrad, Ly knew she wanted to become an architect, and went on to earn a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. While still a student at Harvard, in 2008 she helped launch MASS Design Group, the award-winning nonprofit design practice dedicated to humanitarian and socially sustainable work.

Since 2002, Ly has lived in New York City and has worked at Rafael Viñoly Architects, 212box, HWKN, and Leong Leong. In these tenures, she nurtured a curiosity in evolving work and cultural spaces, and discovered a talent for leading project teams with empathy. She also co-founded Designers Assembly, which supports young architects who aspire to ethical, creatively fulfilling entrepreneurship. She lives with her husband Rob, a tech product manager, and their son Simon and daughter Stella.