September 25, 2013

An Exercise in Restraint: James Harb Re-Envisions Equinox

With a good workout, the key is not to overdo it. The same goes for good design, especially when a project comes with pant-inducing views of the Hudson River and the Empire State Building. Which is why James Harb Architects, re-envisioning an existing West Village gym for the Equinox brand, took an approach that’s understated yet undeniably eye-catching.

The staggering views came with an equally staggering challenge. “Conceiving a three-level space separated by eight other floors is tough logistically,” James Harb says. The gym’s 30,000 square feet are divided between the ground level of a 1911 building known as the Printing House and its duplex penthouse addition from 1980. 

Part of his solution was to start strong. “High-end materials, front and center, give a sense of exclusivity,” he says. So he used onyx wall tile and walnut paneling for the reception area. Behind the desk is a feature wall designed to resemble oversize printing blocks, all the letter “E.” 

Beyond reception, the shop, the juice bar, and sales offices, the area dedicated to strength-training machines and free weights is vast. “I took down as many walls as I could,” he says. “The original gym was designed when 45-degree angles were in vogue. A lot needed undoing, stylistically—opening things up to fix awkward spatial relations.” There are only two enclosed studios, for spin and other cardio classes.

Less-than-ideal angles also appeared in the duplex penthouse, levels nine and 10. Harb unified them by reorienting anything he could, notably the yoga studio and cardio machines, to put the focus on the views. “You need inspiration when pedaling,” he says, pointing to a line of stationary bikes overlooking the Hudson. 

Squash players will be disappointed to learn that the renovation entailed removing all seven courts. But that allowed for a larger, more luxurious rooftop pool area. Lounging on a chaise next to fellow swimsuit-clad Equinox members? Talk about inspirational.

Project Team:
One Lux Studio: Lighting Consultant. Rodney D. Gibble Consulting Engineers: Structural Engineer. Robert Derector Associates: MEP. Fairpoint Companies: General Contractor.

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