Inspiration

Union SQ Travel Agency Inspired by Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center

Architecture firm Leong Leong’s reference of Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport for the Union Square Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store is one sly nod to the pursuit and pleasure of flying high – a highly curated retail exhibition space leaning into the retro-futuristic details of Saarinen’s dynamic forms with stark monochromatic simplicity.

The 2,800-square-foot space operates not only as a place to peruse high-end cannabis products, but also functions as the brand’s “laboratory and refuge.” USQTA commissioned the architecture firm to design a space intended to educate customers about the use and properties surrounding cannabis. And thus Leong Leong created the 150-square-foot curvilinear Flower Lounge as the shop’s centerpiece, framing an assortment of flowers, accessories, and paraphernalia complemented by inset and brightly illuminated shelving, and digital kiosks. 

Airport/train station flipboard housed with an Eero Saarinen-inspired hanging display with faux departure schedules listing NYC to OMG, NBD, LOL, BRB, and ZZZ

A select layout of contemporary vitrines are stationed throughout to tempt curiosity, inviting customers to learn about the various scent compounds related to the plants’ signature terpenes. Afterward, the staff offers customer recommendations matching their sensory preferences.

Two inset and illuminated wall shelves displaying various colorful glass and ceramic pipes and other cannabis products.

An application of soft luminous light washes along the walls of the space, with the ambient glow. We cannot help but notice a few of our favorite cannabis-focused designs on their shelves.

View from entryway looking into the main Flower Lounge section of the retail space, surrounded by curving concrete walls with vitrine displays and wall alcoves visible in the background.

12-foot length LED illuminated display glowing purple around "Union SQ Travel Agency" embossed in the center. In the foreground is a display case with various cannabis gummies.

Embedded in the walls and behind the checkout registers a 12-foot-long custom lighting element glows, slowly changing hues over time.

Detail of display case with pre-rolls, vapes, and small ceramic ashtray underneath the clear glass case.

“The design intention for our new space is tranquil, cheeky, unexpected and approachable. Leong Leong has designed a surreal sanctuary that allows for a fun escape with a nod to retro-futurism,” says Arana Hankin-Biggers, President of USQTA.

Enormous vertically oriented cannabis joint sculpture filled with small green objects within a clear housing.

Signage explaining USQTA's partnership with the nonprofit, The Doe Fund: "More than half of all proceeds will be redirected to The Doe Fund. For over 30 years, The Doe Fund has led the charge against homelessness and recidivism by providing paid employment, transitional and permanent housing, and support services to people who have experienced homelessness and incarceration, helping more than 30,000 individuals transform their lives." [logo at bottom with "Ready, Willing & Able" with The Doe Fund]

USQTA works in partnership with The Doe Fund, a nonprofit devoted to helping transition individuals from the trappings of addiction and crime, donating 51% of their profits to reinvest into the rehabilitation program.

Black painted rxterior of the Union Sq Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store retail space, with large windows showing an enormous joint sculpture as the centerpiece display and a cannabis potted plant in the foreground.

If you happen to be in New York City and want to board the Union Square Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store, venture over to 835 Broadway at 13th St. Open seven days a week with hours from 9am-11pm Sunday thru Thursday and 9am-midnight during Friday and Saturday.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at gregoryhan.com.

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