How Equinox Gyms Are Becoming Heavy Lifters In The Design World

Their Union Street property in San Francisco had to maintain a lot of the historic buildings.

When you think of the top players in architecture and design, skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants, and homes filling the pages of Architectural Digest come to mind. Gyms? Not so much. But that’s precisely what the team over at Equinox is hoping to accomplish.

The luxury sports club broke the mold of the traditional dingy, smelly workout facilities to create a fitness space that was not only high-end but also worthy of competing in a more general lifestyle market. At the helm of that ship for the last decade has been Aaron Richter, Senior VP of architecture and design. It’s his focus on the emotions of the spaces that have helped transform the brand into one of those top players.

The first key difference, Richter noted, was that they’re a real estate company first and foremost. “We develop our real estate, so that means I can influence the design as early as the lease outline drawing,” he said. “It’s a dynamic process that sort of defines the outline of the club. Our development team makes sure that we can make space for that particular community.”


The Bond Street gym is meant to feel like an artist’s loft.

Unlike other gyms with a cookie-cutter mold across their portfolio, Equinox has a neighborhood focus meaning you will see a broad range of aesthetics across properties. “This is very, very different on purpose,” said Richter.

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For example, Bond Street is one of the oldest streets in New York and is only two blocks long. While researching the area, the team found that around the time of Andy Warhol there were a lot of artists squatting in buildings. So, the design team used that for to create a place that felt as if you had stumbled upon an artist’s loft.

“It’s about trying to insert those elements from the lighting to the type of metal meshes we use,” said Richter. “It’s also very residential and eclectic, so it looks like pieces of the furniture that you might have dragged off the street. It’s a mish-mosh of different vintages from all over the place.”

The Brookfield Place property in Manhattan embraces a nautical theme.