Hospitality

Sleep well

When Equinox entered the hotel market, they were determined to offer something different. Magali Robathan interviews the designers behind the New York hotel promising to ‘restore and regenerate’ guests


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Four years ago, I interviewed Aaron Richter, design director at Equinox, about the brand’s approach to designing health clubs and the plans for the first Equinox Hotel – which opened in Hudson Yards, New York in July.

“I tell our architects that I want people to walk into our spaces and feel a bit like they’re in a temple – not in a religious way but in a spiritual way,” he told me. “You want to get that ‘Oh!’ moment.”

Equinox have been creating design-led upmarket gyms and fitness clubs since 1991, and they’ve been hugely successful. Things are changing in the health club market, but it’s not been a sector that traditionally put a lot of emphasis on design. Equinox transformed that. The brand takes interesting buildings and creates beautiful high end spaces that take their cues from the local neighbourhood. Each of their clubs is very different – the Bond Street club in New York has been designed to evoke the feel of an artist’s loft, while the Union Street club in San Francisco is housed in an old movie theatre, and maintains the original marquee, stage, columns and 1920s mural.

Now Equinox have entered the hotel market, with a planned series of properties that put movement, fitness and regeneration at their heart. Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards is the first, housed in a building designed by SOM with interiors by Joyce Wang and David Rockwell. Further hotels have been confirmed for Los Angeles, Santa Clara, CA, Seattle, Chicago and Houston, and several other sites are under development.

So what makes an Equinox Hotel different from any other hotel? “It’s the way we incorporate the fitness and wellness into the hotels,” Richter told me. “Lots of hotel brands have a fitness component to their hotel, but what they’re offering isn’t really rooted in a good understanding of fitness. They’re aimed at someone who’s on the road and feels guilty about not working out, rather than someone who’s truly into fitness and is trying to continue their lifestyle. Our hotels are a continuation of what we offer in the clubs. We’re here to help you stay committed to that, rather than get off your schedule.”

What this means at Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards is a hotel with Equinox’s largest ever health club at its heart. Designed by Joyce Wang, the 60,000sq ft club features a 27,000sq ft “performance-driven spa,” 25-yard indoor salt water pool, hot and cold plunge pools, an outdoor leisure pool, a SoulCycle facility and a terrace restaurant.

The design for the spa and gym were inspired by “human flow and athleticism in its purity,” as well as the rawness of the railroads that lie beneath the hotel, according to Wang.

The hotel, meanwhile, features 212 “cool, dark and quiet” guest rooms and suites designed by Rockwell Group to act as a respite from the city. They offer spectacular views across the city, and feature “ultimate sleep chambers” with soundproofing, blackout shades and an exclusive bed system.

The public spaces, also designed by Rockwell Group, are welcoming and glamorous, with materials including walnut, stone, resin, metal and leather, Zaha Hadid sofas in the Sky Lobby, and a huge and quite beautiful Jaume Plensa sculpture on the edge of the terrace’s infinity edge pool.

In CLADmag earlier this year (Q2 2019) we spoke to SOM partner David Childs about the inspiration behind the 92-storey building’s architecture. Here we speak to the designers of the interior spaces about how they approached the project.

THE ROOMS AND PUBLIC SPACES
Greg Keffer, partner, Rockwell Group
Rockwell Group partner Greg Keffer led the Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards project. He joined Rockwell in 2012

What was the starting point for the design?
When we started to research the project, we did a lot of thinking around the term ‘equinox,’ an event when daytime and night-time are approximately equal in duration. The autumnal and vernal equinoxes also signify the beginning of fall and spring. Autumn is a time to turn inward, to slow down, and to rest, whereas spring is a time for rebirth, growth, and regeneration. We were inspired by the symbolism, so our design concept for the hotel celebrates transitions and transformations – from day to night and from active to restful.

The day to night transition is purposefully emphasised. The Sky Lobby transforms from day to night and is activated 24/7. In the day it’s a place to meet friends, work, or refuel. At night, lounge tables are set with soft individual lights to add a glow. In the guestrooms, horizontal linear lighting washes continuous leather panels along the millwork wall for a low, soft glow. Task lights + custom FFE lamps add an ambient glow to the room with integrated circadian lighting.

How would you sum up the design?
Guests will feel as if they’ve stepped into a sumptuous residential loft. The colour palette balances de-saturated neutrals with dark moments of contrast. Hints of deep, bold indigo reference the Hudson and signify the brand. Sleek, luxurious materials such as resin, figured metal, stone, and leather were used in unexpected ways.

Did the location inform the design?
Rockwell Group worked on several projects at Hudson Yards including The Shed (with lead architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro) and the adjoining residential tower, Fifteen Hudson Yards. We tried to push the boundaries of innovation with our projects at Hudson Yards. There was also an emphasis on creating opportunities for social experiences. What better location for Equinox to launch a hotel concept that focuses on creating a transformational experience for guests before they venture back into the kinetic frenzy of New York?

How does the design of the hotel help support guests in their fitness and wellness goals? 
The Equinox experience is empathetic and human (user)-centric, from its design around the rhythms of the body to the biomorphic forms found throughout the space, and from the health-conscious dining and fitness options, to its acknowledgement of fundamental human qualities like curiosity and a need for community.

We considered what guests want to become when they’re staying at the hotel, and what of that hotel experience they want to take with them when they return to their hectic everyday lives.

Everything is expressive – there’s no ‘white space’

Can you give any examples of any unusual design features? 
There’s a play of light and reflections throughout the hotel. The ground floor lobby sets the tone with a polished stainless steel sculpture representing movement of the human body set against a spalted French walnut wood wall.

We collaborated with London based artists Based Upon to create the sculpture as well as a monumental mirrored centerpiece in the Sky Lobby. As natural sunlight fades over the course of the day and the Sky Lobby lighting grows brighter, the reflection of the light sculpture become more dramatic in the mirrored sculpture and reflects the city beyond.

What makes this hotel special?
Hudson Yards is the flagship property for the Equinox Hotel brand, so for our studio it was exciting to work on an entirely new hotel concept. In terms of the design, we created an environment where everything is expressive – there’s no ‘white space.’ The materiality is rich and layered Do you have a personal favourite part of the hotel?

The guestrooms are pretty amazing. We focused on creating a cool, dark, and quiet oasis. The room is divided into a generous open entry foyer, a dressing room and bathroom space, and a calming sleep chamber. The room’s multi-functionality creates space for yoga, exercise, and meditation as well as for working and dining.

What was the biggest challenge of this project? What are you proudest of?
Creating a balance between action and stillness was a big challenge. It’s not easy to define a place that rejuvenates but also excites, that feels luxurious but not ostentatious, and seems modern but not cold.

"Our design concept for the hotel celebrates transitions and transformations – from day to night and from active to restful"

I’m definitely most proud that we feel we hit that note and it’s a unique design that reflects, and in some ways evolves, the Equinox brand everyone has come to know.

The Sky Lobby transforms in the evening
One of the ‘cool, quiet’ guestrooms
The hotel has an 8,000sq ft terrace bar with an infinity edge pool and views of the New York skyline
THE SPA AND GYM
Joyce Wang
Joyce Wang has worked with Equinox before, creating the interiors for the brand’s London Mayfair health club

How did you approach the design of the spa and gym at Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards?
We took concept cues from the historic site that was full of visual inspiration – Hudson Yards. Suspended above a train terminus, with unparalleled views of the Hudson River, we wanted to capture the industrial rawness of the railroads beneath us.

What is special about the spa and gym at Equinox Hotel?
The spa and club exude a luxurious, pioneering spirit, aiming to define the new forefront of wellbeing.

How would you describe the spa design?
We introduced a curve into the plan, elevation and section to create intimate interior architecture that would serve to guide, relax and cocoon guests. The jewel box-like hair salon with featured curved glass doors lure guests in for signature treatments, whilst the billowing timber pillows in the pre-treatment area create a softened backdrop for relaxation.

How do you want this space to make people feel?
Our vision was for guests to experience the spa as a series of discoveries; unravelling one space after another at their own pace.

How would you describe the design of the club? How do you want it to make its users feel?
Our design language was conceived to capture the contrast between the rawness of the railroads and refined forms of celebrated architecture; as well as highlight the unique position of Hudson Yards as a sanctuary that facilitates the elevation of body and mind.

We wanted the design to reflect human flow and athleticism in its purity. The twisted steel detail of the staircase pays tribute to the sinuous curves of the railroads that lay beneath our site.

What is your favourite part of the spa and gym?
Our curved geometric interior architecture makes a real statement in the treatment rooms as it creates a rhythm of timber archways signifying the inner sanctum of the spa.

Wang was influenced by the railroads beneath the hotel
Wang has created a ‘rhythm of timber archways’ in the treatment rooms, to evoke the feeling of a sanctuary
Group fitness classes take place in the pale, light-filled exercise studios
The locker room at the Equinox Fitness Club
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Company profile: GOCO Hospitality
The specialists in designing, developing and operating spa and wellness spaces.
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