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If you’re not looking you might walk right past it. Located in an old metalwork building in SoHo, Nike+ 45 Grand has storefront windows, but a clever curved wall with a fan of vertical panels lets light into the interior and only partial views out. The two-floor space was designed by Rafael de Cárdenas and artistic director Jen Brill, accommodating an invite-only workout studio, lounge, and training club. It is elegantly designed, with details like hexagonal modular seating and a blush pink wraparound banquet subtly inspired by Nike motifs. Whitewall spoke with de Cardenas and Brill about designing 45 Grand—and what went into creating one of the best workout environments we’ve ever experienced.
WHITEWALL: What was the brief for you for 45 Grand from Nike? The concept is fairly unique: a showroom that’s also an invite-only workout space.
RAFAEL DE CÁRDENAS: With Nike+ 45 Grand, we focused on scripting the individualized Nike+ experience and making it immersive and dynamic for athletes. The space is designed to be versatile enough to host Nike+ running and training club sessions, showcase upcoming collections and innovations, hold bespoke fitting and training appointments, and incubate potential new Nike services.
JEN BRILL: The brief proposed creating the most pinnacle Nike+ studio meant for athletes, influencers, and media alike: a place where you can experience the best of Nike’s upcoming collections, design, and innovation through the lens of Nike+ services.
WW: Rafael, you said in a previous interview that you wanted to approach femininity in a tougher way. For both of you, how did you explore that across the two floors?
RDC: The Nike woman is tough! I think the space has a certain sultriness through the indirect lighting throughout and the carefully deployed mirrors that speaks to aesthetics that feel a bit more specialized than a gym. In short, the space privileges the technical aspects of a training space but through the customization of the design—all specifically made for the space—we reflect the specialized nature of Nike+ services. The upstairs lounge was meant to serve as a post-workout cool-down lounge that’s feminine, but not sweet.
WW: Had either of you designed a space before that would be used for working out?
RDC: Not to this degree. I hope I’m able to more and more, though.
JB: No, this is the first time working on a women’s studio. I’ve certainly fantasized about turning off the fluorescent lights in a gym and changing the color palette, mats, and equipment.
WW: What were some new considerations, given the function of the space?
JB: Adaptability, versatility, and futureproofing were all taken into consideration when designing Nike+ 45 Grand. We knew that the studio was going to be used for many different reasons, and we needed to create a modular space to work for all of the services taking place in the space.
WW: Were there any Nike motifs that influenced the space—like the use of hexagons and the upstairs lounge that may be reminiscent of the Lunar sole?
JB: Nike+ 45 Grand includes nods to Nike motifs throughout. There are a number of hexagons in the space, which were taken from the bottom of the Nike Free and Nike Zoom. The benches downstairs in the front area and locker room are appreciative nods to Nike Air Max. The seating in the upstairs lounge was influenced by the sole of the Nike Lunarlon. It was pretty amazing to see that plushy look blown up into couch size. We are endlessly inspired by the design and innovation that Nike has truly mastered and tried to incorporate as many of these elements as possible.
WW: Natural light seemed to be embraced in interesting ways on both floors—the skylight upstairs and the obscured front window, street-level windows.
RDC: We wanted to privilege natural light, but in the very specific way that we experience it in New York and similar urban environments. There’s always a challenge in maintaining privacy while enhancing a connection to natural light (which can be fleeting in urban environments). The translucent “chapel” at the front does a good job of letting light in while keeping the training experience private. I think it also works nicely as a seductive tool—from the outside members arriving are certainly excited to see what’s inside.
JB: When we saw the space for the first time, we fell in love with all of that gorgeous light that pours onto the floors through the garage doors. The space has so much natural charm, and we wanted to celebrate its most beautiful attributes. The gait analysis upstairs is under a skylight. How often are you on a treadmill in New York under the warmth of the sun?
WW: How did you want to incorporate Nike women’s history and current/future collections?
RDC: The storytelling areas throughout Nike+ 45 Grand were designed to highlight both digital and physical content. For the opening of the space, we were lucky enough to be given access to the Nike DNA archive and curated a storyline that celebrated 40 years of women’s sport through the archived product worn by so many of their athletes.
JB: We were in complete awe of the Nike Sports Bra that soccer legend Brandi Chastain wore when she took off her jersey in 1999 at the World Cup and Serena William’s denim skirt from the 2004 U.S. Open. There are countless iconic moments in women’s sport that Nike has been a part of, and it was really special to help tell that story in the space.
WW: Have either of you worked out in the space?
RDC: Quite regularly, in fact. Oftentimes together.
JB: Yes, of course. Without question it’s my most favorite place to work out in on earth.