Spatial Experimentation

by Rachel Bramwell, Senior Strategist

For the past three and a half years, I worked at MKThink in San Francisco. For the past three and a half months, I have worked for MKThink in New York. As the East Coast correspondent, here are some of the trends I’ve observed centering around spatial experimentation.

Left: Story store; Right: Exhibit at the Oculus at the World Trade Center

Retail reigns Not only can you find everything and anything, brick-and-mortar retail locations are pushing the boundaries of consumption. The online-based Glossier has their first retail location, a “showroom” in SoHo complete with pharmacist-dressed retail associates, displaying the brand’s 16 products for trial and purchase. The Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus at the World Trade Center fuses a transportation hub with an upscale shopping mall, complete with rotating retail and socially-responsible themed exhibits in the main hall. Story changes their entire store every few months in line with a different theme they chose. At Reformation you can take photos with their fancy photo booth and background, and then share and upload them to social media (of course with the store’s watermark), blurring brick-and-mortar and digital spaces.

Rise by We, part of We Work Wellness in downtown Manhattan

Experimental exercise While San Francisco is known for its start-ups and entrepreneurial culture, there is also room for experimentation in New York, albeit of a less “tech” nature. Project Equinox is Equinox’s “disruption-driven talent incubator, where trainers create the future of fitness.” SoulAnnex, SoulCycle’s foray beyond cycling, is “home to custom-created classes.” And WeWork has opened WeWork Wellness within one of their co-working buildings, which includes a spa, group fitness classes, and a gym. (Are you seeing a theme here?) As failing retail spaces like malls are finding that gyms are prime anchor tenants, perhaps New York is on to something.

Ace Hotel lobby

Co-working creativity Yes, WeWork has an extensive real estate footprint here. So do about 500 other co-working spaces. But what are these spaces really when you break it down? Coffee, tables, couches, and WiFi. Where else can you find these things (beyond the obvious coffee shops)? The Metropolitan Museum of Art café. Really any museum café where they offer WiFi, there seem to be people on laptops working. My gym has a very nice entry space with a café in it — it also serves a co-working space, albeit an informal one. The Ace Hotel lobby bar is busier than any WeWork I’ve been in. If you want to be more formal about it, there’s Spacious, which “partners with the city’s best restaurants to open the doors to beautiful spaces in the hours they’re not being used.”

The classic combination of sneakers and cereal

+ coffee When all else fails, the logic seems to be: add a coffee or tea bar. In the past three months I have been into a jewelry store with a tea bar, a florist with an espresso machine, and a clothing boutique with a coffee bar. Not to mention a sneaker store with a cereal bar. Okay New York, you win.