It’s a nightclub. It’s an urban hangout. It’s a cool boutique. Nope. It’s the latest fitness and wellness space. Welcome to high-intensity design.
You know you’ll feel better once you finish that gym session, fitness class or wellness treatment. But, seriously, wouldn’t you get a major mental health boost if you weren’t doing it in a concrete box, or (worse yet) a dark basement?
Um, yes, of course, say the masterminds behind today’s well-thiest destinations. Designers, trainers and medical pros all contend it’s time that studios, workout areas and even medispas make as much of an impact on your eyes as on your health. Here are some key insights on powering up these once-undertrained spaces from AC Martin design principal Christopher King, ((305)) Fitness creator Sadie Kurzban and REVIV owner and partner German Kaupert. Read on for your personalized training program.
Even if the ice, ice baby has to wait until after a sweat-dripping class at Miami-inspired ((305)) Fitness' D.C. outpost, the dynamic lighting program cools off the atmosphere as needed. Photo: Courtesy of ((305)) Fitness
Step one: Avoid shortcuts. This applies especially to the concept stages. Forget about just overlaying the same vision board from lobby to studio. Responding to fitness and wellness RFPs now calls for the same level of complexity, visual layering and execution as any other project on your boards. For King, that meant distilling the ambitious idea behind the building of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, finding the beauty in LA’s unique urban vernacular, which is often seen as banal or even unsightly, and translating all that into an equally authentic idiom for Attitude (the gym). For example, he turned to materials such as TRX straps and fabrics inspired by sneakers—items that are as quotidian in the fitness world as building materials are in the urban one outside the 31st-floor windows. A web of straps becomes an art-like installation in the ceiling, stretching from the desk to the locker room entrance.
Kurzban takes a slightly different approach. The Miami-born, Boston-educated, New York-based entrepreneur believes that escapism is the new black. Her studios are designed to feel like Miami nightclubs. “For us, using consistent and playful materials such as neon, colorful lights, plants, artificial grass and steel make for our concrete jungle-meets-tropical paradise playground,” she says.
If you ask Kaupert, he’s big on cross-training—ideas, that is. “We’re boutique store-inspired,” he says, adding that for the brand’s latest outpost at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, they picked up that recently renovated hotel’s ultra-luxe vibe. Cue glossy finishes, high-contrast color palettes and statement lighting that reflect the blurred boundary between shopping for “stuff” and shopping for “experiences.”
((305))'s lockers show the studio's serious side with a graffti wall paying tribute to some of the company's beliefs. Bright yellow keeps the mood light. Photo: Courtesy of ((305)) Fitness
Speaking of experiences, designers need to be prepared to raise the bar not only on visual style, but on the complexity and sophistication of the equipment and programming in both fitness and wellness areas. After all, guests who commit to a routine on the road value it—enough that dissatisfaction with the facilities for those activities is just as frustrating as a lousy restaurant or dim bathroom. Delivering what they want, says Kurzban, starts with making space.
“Even to do an in-room workout, I’d like 100 sq. ft., but I’ll push a chair out of the way if I have to. Equipment wise, 10-20 lb. free weights and a mat are the basics, but ankle weights and a jump rope would be great additions to guestroom workout menus,” she says. “Here’s my wish list for a boutique hotel gym with three to five people in the gym at a time. You need one to two cardio machines. A bike and an elliptical or a bike and a treadmill are great options. Other musts would be: sets of free weights from five to 30 lbs., mats and a couple basic pieces of strength training equipment: a leg press, a squat rack and a bench. For a bigger hotel, add a couple more cardio machines (another treadmill and bike or an elliptical, rowing machine and treadmill), a few kettlebells, and three to four commonly used weight machines such as a hamstring curl, a quad extension or a row/chest press machine. Overall, I’d prioritize free weights over machines; they give you more freedom in your workout. And, please make sure you have mirrors.”
X marks the...locker room. Attitude uses XX and XY instead of traditional descriptors for women's and men's locker rooms. Photo: Eric Laignel
King agrees with the need for space. At 14,000 sq. ft., Attitude is on a scale to match the skyscraping height of the hotel’s gallery-like public spaces. He also contends, though, that subdividing that floorplan is key. “We worked with the operator’s equipment vendor, WTS Intl., to create a private fitness room; separate and distinct areas for core, strength and cardio; a dedicated stretching area; and a trainer station,” says King. “We also collaborated with engineering consultants to develop electrical and structural placement plans. Contrasting private and public areas—much like those we’d design in a sweeping lobby volume—is also an integral part of crafting fitness spaces that cater to modern travelers’ conflicting needs for socialization and privacy.”
Let the experience sink in at Attitude. Prioriizing budget dollars for upgraded finishes helps bridge the narrowing gap between networking and sweatworking spaces. Photo: Eric Laignel
“The low light levels help create a feeling of privacy and self-introspection, especially for people seeking to stay out of the spotlight. We created elements where serendipitous meetings could happen at the reception with wrap around benches and in areas like the water fountain while making the individual stations feel more isolated,” says King.
Even if the next fitness project on your boards doesn’t leave you much room to move, careful materiality choices can still sculpt a memorable space. Cleanable surfaces such as tile can be installed in eye-catching ways, as King and his team did via custom patterns and unexpected locations. Low budget? Kurzban points out that wood-alternative floors won’t break the bank, though it’s worth mentioning that some may need cushioning added during installation, especially in studios with high-impact workouts. Kaupert notes that simple things such as art can contribute to the holistic benefits of a space. One last friendly reminder: soundproofing really, really matters, says King. He and his team used four different types of insulation in the floors, depending on what type of workout takes place in each area. Come on, work it out. Sweat equity pays off.
Shopping can be a healthy habit. REVIV at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas might resemble a high-end shop, but it's selling IV therapies and vitamin injections. Photo: Anthony Mair
((305)) Fitness D.C.
Potomac Construction Services
Robert Bloom (lighting)
InterContinental Hotels Group
AC Martin: Christopher King, design principal; Sandra Levesque, design director; Michelle Sterling, project director; Lily Chung, lead designer; Edmund Lau, production coordinator
FLOORING & WALLS
REVIV at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Moser Architecture Studio
Dakem & Associates, LLC