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New renderings show future of Hudson Yards
Fifty years ago, the term wellness—if it was used at all—essentially meant “not sick.” Then, throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the rise of gym culture and workplace wellness snowballed into an explosion of fitness boutiques in the early aughts. In city centers and upscale suburbs today, specialized fitness boutiques such as SoulCycle, PureBarre, Barry’s Bootcamp, and FlyWheel are nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Combined with the rapid expansion of “health” branded grocery stores, an uptick in haute athletic wear, and a plethora of juice and smoothie companies, not to mention the surrounding media buzz, wellness has become not so much a trend as a booming industry.
Hotel conglomerates took note about a decade ago, assuming that the same kale-juice-chugging travelers frequenting SoulCycle and Whole Foods would want to stick to their wellness routines on the road. In 2010, Wyndham acquired TRYP, a subset of hotels that offers amenities like in-suite fitness equipment, healthy snacks, and an “energetic fitness center.” In 2012, Las Vegas’s MGM Grand introduced 41 “Stay Well” rooms featuring wellness amenities such as aromatherapy and air purification systems and access to Cleveland Clinic programs for “sleep, stress, and nutritional therapy.” In 2014, InterContinental Hotels Group launched EVEN Hotels with six locations in Norwalk, Connecticut; Rockville, Maryland; Times Square, Midtown East, and Brooklyn, New York; and Omaha, Nebraska. EVEN Hotels not only boast athletic studios, but also in-room personal training, group classes, and the Cork & Kale™ Market and Bar for healthy snacks. The branding, though aggressively green-washed, is apparently successful: Six more EVEN Hotel properties are slated to open in the next few years.
In 2017, fitness companies flipped the script. Luxury fitness brand Equinox recently announced it will open its first hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards development in 2019 with plans to open a second location in Los Angeles soon after. Equinox operates nearly 80 clubs in nine cities in the United States, with additional locations in Toronto and London, with approximately one million members overall. Although sources wouldn’t disclose which architects worked on initial designs, the revealed rendering shows a massive tower, expected to be home to a 60,000-square-foot “super gym” with indoor and outdoor pools in addition to the hotel.
Equinox isn’t alone. Chicago’s Midtown Athletic Club, a tennis-and-fitness center established in 1970, is adding a 55-room boutique hotel on top of its facilities. Evanston, Chicago–based DMAC Architecture spearheaded the design of the addition and the redesign of the existing structure to create a 575,000-square-foot complex that will have 15 indoor tennis courts; four pools (including one that converts to an ice rink in winter); one full-size basketball court; several studio fitness spaces for yoga, Pilates, boxing, and spinning; locker rooms; retail and dining options; outdoor and lounge recreational spaces; as well as other hotel amenities such as meeting and banquet rooms, deluxe suites, and a penthouse presidential suite. “Rather than being 98 percent hotel with 2 percent amenity, [the Midtown Athletic Club] will be 96 percent amenity and 4 percent hotel,” said Dwayne MacEwen, founder and principal of DMAC architecture. “There are three floors of primary club space, with the third being an all-glass in-between space with the lobby, and the hotel component occupies floors four and five,” he explained. MacEwen emphasized that the prevailing design directive is to create something “intimate and choreographed,” eschewing a “big-box-gym atmosphere.”
Designing for wellness rather than merely fitness or hospitality involves a careful consideration of social and nonsocial areas. MacEwen and his team crafted specific spaces for conversation, like the monumental staircase on the second floor; spaces for solidarity, like the meditation room; and spaces for “being together, alone,” like the lounge. “We didn’t want to over program any one room—when you do that no one hangs out there—but we wanted to create an emotional impact through our use of materials, sense of compression, lighting, and wayfinding,” he said.
This strategy continues through the exterior of the landmarked building: The Midtown Athletic Club is located at a busy intersection in Bucktown, and MacEwen was cognizant of its impact on the neighborhood. “People choose to live in the city for a reason,” he said, “so we wanted to give something back to the urban street experience. It is more like an urban island oasis; you feel like you are a part of the city because you can see the traffic and feel the energy, but there is a solitude and quietness to it as well.” The Midtown Athletic Club hotel and renovation is set to be complete early this summer.
As hotels increase the amount of fitness and wellness offerings on deck, boutique fitness brands also feel obligated to provide key hospitality tenets—most importantly, forging a community with and among their members. Principal Chad Smith of Desbrisay & Smith Architects in New York has been working with boutique fitness brand Barry’s Bootcamp since 2012, both designing its studios and contributing to its branding. It is no coincidence that the tagline on the Desbrisay & Smith Architects website is “causing communities.” “We look at the organization of the space, as well as its touch and feel, and explore how the patrons come together and what happens before and after a workout,” Smith explained. This isn’t just “Kumbaya” feel-good vibes. “Boutique fitness companies want their communities to form a gang, not only because it has material impacts on their health and wellness, but [because] it increases retention so the businesses make more money.”
There is no singular approach when it comes to organizing spaces that make people feel as though their intraclub relationships are springing up organically. When Smith worked on CrossFit company I.C.E.’s New York location, he started by examining where and how clients interacted. “In CrossFit, people hang out and talk to each other in the workout space, so we wanted it to be chic and luxurious, very Manhattan,” he said. “Basically we thought, ‘If you had to pick a classic New York space to work out in, something that’s durable and glamorous, what would you choose?’ The obvious answer is Grand Central Station, so we picked up on its material cues, such as brass and dark blue paint.” But behind these sleek walls and floors, there is a lot going on: sound isolation, floating, spring reinforced acoustic floors, and superinsulated windows and walls.
Not only are these technological elements crucial for spaces like Barry’s Bootcamp, where 25 people run on 25 treadmills simultaneously within a mixed-use building, but they are also needed for when people sit completely still.
Meditation centers—that is, places where people go to sit and experience a guided meditation—are still new to the built wellness environment. When designing the Inscape Meditation Center in Manhattan, Archi-Tectonics founder Winka Dubbeldam spent months focusing on a seamless experience for clients. “It demands a different type of precision,” she explained. “If you meditate in all kinds of positions—walking, sitting, lying down—then you are very aware of yourself and the space around you. A few things became quite apparent. I wanted to create a continuum, an immersive environment: Walls and ceilings become one in the Dome; there is clean purified air; there is perfect sound and lighting. All the senses are soothed.”
Inscape has two meditation rooms: The Dome room is a large ellipse, while the Alcove room is smaller and wrapped in textural cloth. Both rooms feature color therapy lights, a smooth transition between the ceilings and walls, and carefully curated sound. “When we first soundproofed the space, we over-perfected it,” Dubbeldam said. “It was too soundproof! It actually hurt my ears. So we had an acoustics engineer come in and soften it and add a small amount of white noise to achieve a more comfortable silence.” The lighting was designed to avoid any pinpointed spots of light; rooms are equally lit, each with a soft horizon line around the Dome room where distracted meditators can focus their gazes and regain their senses of calm.
To achieve this level of design, Dubbeldam created a full-scale prototype in a warehouse in Brooklyn and meditated in it with Inscape founder Khajak Keledjian, who also founded the clothing boutique Intermix. “I see design as a process, a series of tests to achieve moments of precision,” Dubbeldam said. “It looks super simple, but it takes massive amounts of design and engineering. I really feel like that is where architecture should go, and, in our case, is going.”
Evan Bennett of New York–based Vamos Architects concurs.“Environments are shifting dramatically as technology shifts,” he explained. Bennett recently completed Honeybrains, a concept cafe in New York’s NoHo district that serves up information on brain health alongside healthy food options and a honey-focused retail section. Owned by two siblings—one who worked in neurology—the cafe features circadian lighting by Ketra disguised in a clever ceiling-light baffle. “We were careful not to have direct lighting, but instead created a honeycomb pattern that could reflect light off of the interior paneling,” Bennett said. “It lets us hide the track lighting, the AV system, and a projector up there as well.” Bennett admits that spending 30 to 40 minutes in a circadian-light-controlled system might not have major effects on one’s health, but he believes in Honeybrain’s mission to become a platform for discussing brain health and the possibilities of design that straddles the intersection of health and technology.
Though the wellness trend will play itself out and change over time, people-centric, health-focused design will endure in hospitality architecture. Combined with our current propensity toward mixed-use spaces and advanced technology, building boundaries will continue to blur—not only between hotel and gym, but across industries of all kinds.
Want more on wellness? Read how it's influencing the workplace too.
Why is ETFE the material of choice for U.S. stadia?
"Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Thankfully "E-T-F-E" does. The material—commonly referred to by its acronym—is all the rave within the architecture world right now, mostly notably seen in contemporary stadia design.
A Project Engineer at New York firm, Thornton Tomasetti, Alloy Kemp spoke to The Architect's Newspaper about the material's key role in stadia projects such across the U.S. These included: the Banc of California Stadium (for the Los Angeles Football Club, MLS) and the U.S. Bank Stadium (for the Minnesota Vikings).
With regard to the latter example, the stadium makes use of a 240,000-square-foot transparent ETFE roof—the largest of its kind in the country. Here, transparency facilitates clear views outside and bathes the playing field in natural light. This also aids climate control within the space, a key factor when growing pitch-perfect grass. While the ETFE system facilitates solar gains, excess heat vents at the stadium's peak supplement ventilation requirements.
The latter meanwhile uses the material expose the structure as a roof clad with 190,000 square feet of ETFE film reveal long-span cantilevers. Kemp pointed out that the material lets a full spectrum of UV light through, something "which aids in plant growth." She also cited the material's "high span to weight ratio" and "its ability to warp" that allow "lighter and sparser structure," as a main reason for its selection. Additionally, kemp added that a low friction coefficient means with regular rainfall, it is capable of cleaning itself with little maintenance necessary.
Another stadium, this time for the LA Rams team, also makes use of ETFE. The stadium, designed by New York–based HKS, features a giant triangular roof supported by thick columns and made of the material. This super-roof also spans across an adjacent outdoor lobby called “champions plaza” to be used as a communal gathering spot for game day spectators. For year-round events, the stadium features a transparent ETFE canopy covering nearly 19 acres. The canopy allows all sides of the building to remain open to the air, allowing natural breezes to pass through while protecting the up to 80,000 patrons from inclement weather.
Alloy Kemp will be speaking at the next Facades+ conference in New York on April 6 There she and Edward Peck of Forum Studio will discuss ETFE's use in the LA Football Club and Minnesota Vikings stadiums as well as in the DS+R's Hudson Yards Culture Shed. Seating is limited. To register, go to facadesplus.com.
Bridge and Tunnel
Port Authority approves $32 billion capital plan with funding for new tunnels and terminals
Back Room Deal?
UPDATE: City Club of New York files Freedom of Information request into Pier 55 design changes
The Trust has made technical alterations to make the project easier to build, but the topography, landscaping, program and size have not changed. It's unfortunate but not surprising that the plaintiffs—who have now lost four times in four courts including the highest in the state—are making another desperate attempt to derail a project that has strong support among neighborhoods along the park, Community Board 2, park advocates and prominent civic groups. The plaintiffs' depiction of the submission of a FOIL request as a "major development" is ludicrous and illustrative of their desperation. Construction continues and we're looking forward to opening this addition to Hudson River Park in 2019.
CITY CLUB DEMANDS ALL DOCUMENTS ABOUT PIER 55's SECRET 'BACK-ROOM' DEAL ON CHANGES TO 'DILLER'S ISLAND' PLANS Club FOILs records involving last-minute architectural changes to controversial plan. NEW YORK (FEB. 3, 2017) -- The City Club of New York has filed a FOIL request with the Hudson River Park Trust for all documents pertaining to its secret, last-minute architectural design changes to Barry Diller's proposed Pier 55 project. In a FOIL request to the Hudson River Park Trust, the City Club and plaintiffs Tom Fox and Robert Buchanan, asked for "any and all" records pertaining to "the new design of Pier 55, as presented in a joint application for a modification" to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. On December 30, with no public notice, the Trust notified federal and state regulators that it was overhauling the design of Pier 55. Most of the structure will now be a "conventional flat pier" rather than the undulating platform originally promised. City Club officials, who have been battling the rushed-through Pier 55 plan in state and federal courts for more than a year, said they have no information about how this design was developed, who was consulted, or what its impact will be on the environment. They said the new design could have different effects on views, noise, and shadow than the old design. "We have no way of knowing whether HRPT studied those effects. This approach is consistent with the back-room dealing and lack of transparency that have characterized this project from day one," officials said. "The Trust and Diller's request to change the project is of a kind with the bait and switch methodology of this project from the beginning: first to the community, then to the Legislature and now to the world at large," City Club lawyer Richard Emery said. "The Trust and Diller have misrepresented this project over and over again. Hopefully the courts and the Army Corps will get wise to this shell game." City club President Michael Gruen said: "The modified design for Pier 55 is a pale parody of the original. The theme of an organic cluster of stemmed vegetation growing from the River is utterly defeated by resting most of the 'island' on a conventional flat pier, flattening the undulation theme, and merely sprinkling the periphery of the 'island' with ornamental 'pots.' No claim can credibly be made that community board support, claimed favorable public opinion, legislative support, or even the Trust's Board's rushed approval in early 2013, extends to this corruption of the original design on which such support arguably rested. The approval process must go back to step 1." Fox, one of the plaintiffs in the suits, added: "The Hudson River Park Trust was established to create a world-class waterfront park in an open and participatory process. The secrecy and closed door deals that the current leadership of the Trust are pursuing has undermined that public process and we must return to meaningful community involvement in decision making of the entire Park is in jeopardy." The FOIL request comes after a report that the plans had changed in the design. Here's the link. Michael Gruen President
This year’s meeting of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) was hosted at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It was the 36th meeting of ACADIA, and was regarded to be an incredibly successful showing. The theme of the conference, Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines, was paired with the Posthuman Frontiers exhibition, featuring jury-selected projects submitted to the conference, as well as the advanced work of Taubman College faculty. The events of the conference were held at multiple venues around Ann Arbor, and were preceded by several workshops that made use of Taubman College’s digital fabrication and instruction facilities.
For those of us on the outside looking in (in our lesser moments, perhaps), the ACADIA community might easily be misconstrued as a group of architects obsessed with robots, or possessing an interest in complicated shapes made in Grasshopper for their own sake. However, the three days this author spent among their ranks at this year’s conference were some of the most inspiring in recent memory. Yes, there were moments of geometric fetishism, and yes, there were a considerable number of time-lapse videos of robot arms in progress. But when taken in aggregate, these projects, papers, and talks reframed and made vibrant the essential ingredients of what we work on as architects: the arrangement of solid and void, the cultural effects of form, and the possibilities of what we might craft in the built environment.
It must be said that the range of work presented was dramatic. Even within the more immediately applicable papers and projects were sober arguments for parametric design in space planning, a smart device for lowering cooling costs in office spaces, newly designed plugins to optimize the unfolding of 3-D meshes, and progress-in-training robots to lay tile in order to relieve the strain on human bodies.Caress of the Gaze from Pier 9 on Vimeo.
Reaching into more radical territory, we saw prototyped near-body architectures operating on the politics of the posthuman in Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of the Gaze,” an actuated garment which tracks—and responds to—the eye movement of those regarding the wearer. We saw installations that build intimacy and a sense of cooperative play between humans and digital entities. There was work which adopted uncommon material alliances of “programmable matter,” such as in Jane Scott’s intertwining of hydrophobic fibers that writhe and retract when exposed to water vapor (one of several fabric-oriented works), and too many others of note to mention them all.
But some of the most memorable moments from this conference were the keynote addresses, as they punctuated the proceedings with disparate tones and positions that illuminated the diversity of this community. Theodore Spyropoulos led the charge on Thursday with a talk entitled All Is Behavior (a play on Hans Hollein’s claim that “All are architects. Everything is architecture.”) It quickly became clear that Spyropoulos sees the future of cities, and indeed, that of humanity, in a technologically positivist light. He envisions self-organizing and aggregating structures which allow for adaptivity in the face of changing climatic or social conditions, and seeks to bring us into more sympathetic forms of interaction with robotic and digital entities.
The evening of the same day found the participants exposed to other visionary work, in a dreamy—and at times titillating—conversation between Philip Beesley and Iris Van Herpen, whose ongoing collaborations are advancing both Van Herpen’s work at the forefront of couture, and Beesley’s at, perhaps, the architectural equivalent. Lucidly expressive, Beesley’s tone was one of wonderment—of proposed, barely imaginable relationships between humans and matter. In fact, Beesley’s role is most easily understood, and his work is most easily appreciated, when it is placed in the context of couture, the goal of which is to push the bounds of what is possible in clothing.
Mario Carpo’s discussion of the cultural implications of searchability was a thoughtful meditation and provocation that ultimately concluded the conference Saturday evening, but the real climax of ACADIA 2016 was a keynote lecture Friday evening by Elizabeth Diller, as she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite a playful hesitance to engage with the foreboding finality of “Lifetime Achievement,” Diller generously outlined some of the more seminal works of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), one of the most influential practices in the world over the past 25 years. Early in the talk, Diller emphasized her interest in the fields adjacent to architecture, a propensity for smaller scale works, and a persistent fascination with “the encounter.” By the end, however, she was in a mode of pure architectural shoptalk, sharing in-progress photos of the recently manufactured steel struts and enormous wheels that will comprise The Shed, currently in construction in New York’s Hudson Yards development. Diller concluded her remarks with some reflections upon the way culture has shifted since some of DS+R’s early work. In the present day, she claims:
“...the speed of obsolescence makes technology a liability. Dumber is better than smarter and the best thing to do for culture in the future is to secure real estate. It’s as basic as that.
Then: Systems theory, game theory, cybernetic control systems were tools to democratize culture.
Now: Digital technologies allow culture to be open source, dispersed, and on-demand. However, with democracy comes the ubiquitous condition of being monitored, so it’s a different time.…
Then: Kit of parts and kinetic systems produce flexibility.
Now: Flexibility is a paradox. The more flexibility is built in, the more predetermined, leaving nothing but empty space (this is related to ‘dumb is a virtue’).
Then: Disciplinary borders had to be broken.
Now: Despite academia’s parsing and classification, the richly indeterminate contours of interdisciplinarity, intradisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity—we actually have to push to make these things happen, because somehow, the real world divides everything up again. Because that’s where money comes from—different places. And it’s going to take a long time to change the system.
Then: Government support for culture was assumed.
Now: To avoid the vicissitudes of the economy, the cultural institutions must produce their own financial security.
Then: The architect was a generalist that gathers research from subcommittees.
Now: Professionalization turns the architect into a director/producer that relies on a rolling cadre of subconsultants who bring an ever-widening depth of expertise to ever-more adventurous problems. So, then and now, the architect gets to push the agency of the profession to invent a cultural and civic project on both scores.”
These sage thoughts carried the conference into its final day, which held perhaps the most poignant moment of the proceedings, as Chuck Eastman, one of the original founders of ACADIA in 1981, received the Society Award of Excellence. Hearing Eastman describe the early days of computational design, the work that went into tasks as simple as Boolean operations, put the tools we now take for granted in perspective. It is amazing how far computational design has advanced in just a few decades, and this community shows no sign of slowing. No doubt, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab will rise to the occasion and show us the next chapter a year from now, as they are slated to host ACADIA 2017.