In Bid to Adapt, Equinox Designs Outdoor Gym for New York City

“Weather is not holding us back,” Nadia Biski, Equinox’s SVP of architecture and design, says to AD PRO. It’s a confident—and almost enthusiastic—statement that’s particularly striking at this moment. As October temperatures continue to drop, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to think about upcoming inclement winter. Because for those in many regions of the country, the solace gained from an outdoor walk or socially distanced park outing will likely fall by and large by the wayside. 

That’s one reason it’s so interesting that Equinox would choose to open up a new outdoor gym in New York City this past weekend. The luxury fitness brand, which debuted its first space of this type earlier this year in Los Angeles, is part of a sector that has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. Chic home exercise equipment may be more in demand than ever before, but the same certainly can’t be said of communal indoor spaces. 

“When we started at [this outdoor gym at] Hudson Yards, it was literally a mound of dirt,” Biski says of the site she and her team had to work with. “We had to bring in everything—water, power, high-end restroom trailers. But we wanted to create something that was here to stay.” Throughout the call, it becomes increasingly clear that part of Biski’s mission was to create a design that wouldn’t feel transitory. It makes sense: Winter weather or no winter weather, businesses like Equinox are having to adapt for more than the immediate, pandemic-infiltrated future. 

Biski also learned some valuable lessons from the first Equinox outdoor gym location in Century City. One illuminating component was a meeting space filled with large plantings, which on-the-ground operations staff reported members loved. “We could have put everything under one large tent,” Biski says, in reference to both locations. However, “adjacencies are very, very important to the success of the club.”

Many components of Equinox’s indoor facilities, such as grouping strength and cardio together, have carried through to the new Hudson Yards “Equinox+ In the Wild” location. (That name choice, Biski explains at one point, is meant to signal an embrace of the inevitably changing weather.) But overall, the goal is to have the location feel as much like the original—indoor—Equinox experience members are accustomed to as possible. That means trying to imbue In the Wild with some sense of luxury, and populating it with a mix of repurposed and new equipment. It also means doing a few test runs to role-play what exactly staff will do when bad weather arrives. 

Despite all this, from a design perspective, clearly some outdoor-only components are actively positive assets. Biski points to large shipping containers that can function as both locker space and climbing workout area as one notable example. Others include a food truck and views of the High Line and Empire State Building. That particular New York icon can be glimpsed through the clear roofs of the heated gym tents. “I personally think it would be so exciting to see a snowstorm hit New York,” she says of working out in those spaces. Later, she adds of her own In the Wild workout plans that she’s waiting for just that type of day. 

A peek around the corner of one area. 

Photo: BFA / Courtesy of Equinox

An equipment-filled tent.

Photo: BFA / Courtesy of Equinox

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