At the end (or beginning) of a long workday, the gym—crowded and fluorescent—is often the last place anyone’s aching to go. Hence this challenge: to create a new one. Ideas ranged from the gimmicky—a “Star Gym,” with rooms where members strive to attain J.Lo’s butt and Madonna’s arms—to the romantically gimmicky: a “Pecs and the City” gym for singles. Most entrants, however, concentrated on alleviating New Yorkers’ time burdens: a gym that’s also a laundromat, and one where workouts double as therapy sessions. Gym impresario David Barton chose these three as winners. The next challenge—to design a new West Side stadium—will be judged by architect Winka Dubbeldam.
The Winner: Tra(in) + Station
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Submitted by: Jay S. Lim, architect, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates
The Idea: An underground workout: On the platform is a “module” with a changing room and a cardio area. Then each train (even the A and the C) has two special cars with a full complement of weight machines.
Barton Says: “Ignore the stinky factor, and this synchronous use of existing apparatus solves the time-crunch problem by integrating exercise into the most mundane part of New York life—the subway commute. People labor under the misconception that gyms want members who don’t show up. We want members who do show up and then renew. Here, slackers’ preferred excuse, ‘I can’t get to the gym,’ is annulled. Note to Bloomberg: By adding gym fees to every MetroCard, this plan should close the MTA budget deficit.”
Second Place: Sports Bars
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Submitted by: David J. Lewis, Paul Lewis, and Marc Tsurumaki, architects, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis
The Idea: Most Manhattan gyms are shoehorned into buildings; this is a building designed around a gym. With such features as stairwells wide enough to fit treadmills, Sports Bars avoids the space constraints that urban gyms face. The bottom level is an actual sports bar, where patrons can watch the game and (perhaps) be inspired by staring at the gymgoers above.
Barton Says: “This Da Vinci-esque fantasy scored high for incorporating human movement into its very architecture. Its designers also kicked intellectual sand in my face with words like inertial. Gym experience is driven by space, scale, light, and color. It can liberate or confine. I look for space that gets your heart beating before you step on the treadmill.”
Third Place: River Gym
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Submitted by: Mitchell Joachim, principal architect, Archinode Studio; and Douglas Joachim, personal trainer and lecturer
The Idea: This floating gym is “a machine of human propulsion that helps purify water, provides spectacular views, and transports less-motivated citizens.” It’s powered by the human exertion from cardio machines.
Barton Says: “For some inexplicable reason, many applicants felt it important that the gym float on water. The bronze medal goes to this James Bond–like flotilla. Unlikely, maybe, but thumbs-up for its environmental friendliness. Also, Con Edison bills gyms $10,000 to $15,000 per month. This one poetically harnesses energy directly from the human buttocks.”