New London Architecture

Spa Junkies at Work

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Richard Hywel Evans

Director
Studio RHE

If 2022 was about getting people back to work, and 2023 is about retaining them and maximising the benefits of being back in the workplace then ‘Community’ will be this year’s buzzword. Generally this term describes a bunch of disparate office workers turning up at their HQ with no common ground between them and the people working next door, or on the floor below - what Community!?
 
However as the profile of the workplace changes and diversity is embraced the age old meeting grounds of micro social groups - the back door cigarette smokers and the 6pm pints in the local Pub drinkers might eventually be displaced by the real community inside the building - the Gym.
 
For many neighbourhoods the Gym has become the real community and it’s integration into the workplace is a natural extension of this phenomena for the modern workforce and an antidote to the work from home sedentary lifestyle. So those start of the weekend pints are replaced by the Friday night HITT spin class, a genuine endorphin high generator that has to be seen and experienced to be believed. 
 
The term ‘Wellness’ has been appropriated from the world of Spas to office design and usually describes a central staircase to encourage exercise and perhaps Tuesday yoga in the Boardroom. But the real integration of the Health Club can deliver not only the environment  that make users belong - chance encounter spaces, broadening of the social group and extension of the social workspace. The place where people come to feel energetic and more creative, to feel ‘at home’ and belong, with of course the added benefit of becoming healthy and less likely to need time off.
 
21 years ago we designed the first ‘Third Space’ gym in central Soho, the idea was that we would create not only the best gym with the best equipment but also reflective spaces, counselling rooms, medical suites for both traditional and alternative medicine and a sense of theatre that had the Members increase their use by over 50% on average. 
 
Our intention was to make the Club ‘a favourite space’, how many times have you ever heard that applied to an Office!
 
The evolving importance of the Gym became very clear to me when Soho House opened Barcelona House. Their magnificent Modernista building didn’t push the gym into the bowels of the building and into the cheap space, oh no it was placed on the Piano Nobile (first floor) with fabulous internal volumes commanding views over the marina and seafront.
 
Modern Gyms have every facility we generally consider for the modern office and more, and by providing this within the shared space the building’s community is not only encouraged but nurtured. Now we can provide perfect environments but also isolation pods, ice baths and cool down showers alongside informal meeting rooms, copy writing cabins, organic juice bars, natural organic cafes and extensive landscaped outdoor gardens. 
 
Is this the next generation of ‘WeWork’ co-working building that despite it’s Apple movie moment works incredibly well at providing perfect managed workspaces? Perhaps Members Gyms are now best placed to manage these next generation complex organisms?


Richard Hywel Evans

Director
Studio RHE



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