Friday, August 18, 2023

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 fresh from the printer

IMAGINE by VANTAG || postcards and monographs

sound like a local

Economist Films

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The Economist

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AUGUST 18TH 2023

Films | Explainer

How to sound like a local when speaking a foreign language

Some phrases can stump even the most seasoned linguists

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to sound like a local when you go on holiday? Even fluent speakers of a foreign language can find themselves adding syllables and butchering local rhythms. Discover the tips about stress and pronunciation that your teachers may have missed.




The gym. An escape for some, hell for others. Yet in the wake of COVID, spaces that push health and wellness are more profitable than ever. The rebirth of mega-exclusive exercise venues is proof of that.

With reputed luxe chains like Equinox guiding it along, the global fitness and health industry topped 96 billion USD in 2019, just a year before the pandemic changed our worlds forever. That trajectory isn’t changing, however; by 2025, the market is projected to reach 1.2 trillion USD, according to Statista. Doesn’t seem so shocking, considering that The New York Times recently compared the difficulty to getting into some application-only American gyms comparable to college. Exclusivity is one way that fitness businesses are reeling clients in, with founders upholding the importance of community curation.

Does space have a role in this? Yes, quite a large one: interiors greatly impact the premiums people are willing to pay for products, service or access, whether that be in retail, hospitality or fitness. In programming and design, upping the luxury dial on exercise venues can turn an everyday, sometimes uninspiring fitness experience into a restorative moment for oneself, or a connective journey with fellow gym-goers. ‘We’re looking for people who are a good representation of the brand, and they should inspire others to take care of themselves,’ Dr Jonathan Leary, founder and chief executive of so-called LA- and-NY social wellness club Remedy Place, explained to NYT. The most expensive of Remedy Place’s amenity-loaded memberships totals at $2,750 per month.  

The founder of Brooklyn gym Ghost aims to foster an experience akin to that of a private members' club

‘Health is truly a luxury in these formats, where strict acceptance rates and high membership fees reserve these opulent and lavish spaces for the wellness-focused, wealthy few,’ Wunderman Thompson has written on the trend, posing a promising future for the typology. ‘As consumers continue to crave like-minded communities and safe spaces for expression, expect to see more ultra-niche membership opportunities come to fruition.’ The global consultancy pointed to one example, Ghost, a Brooklyn venue that has been touted as the ‘future of luxury gyms’. Its sleek, filmic interiors and atmospheric lighting had one testing journalist likening the space to a nightclub. ‘I really view us more in the hospitality space in that certainly it's a place where people come to pursue wellness, but it's a little bit more than that,’ founder and CEO Aqib Mamoon told Insider. ‘It also functions more akin to a social club or a private member's club.’ Community- and culture-building through ‘curated wellness destinations’ is Ghost’s modus operandi.

Contrasting ambiences are used to elicit different moods between workout and recovery spaces at the S10 Gym & Recovery Spa in NYC's West Village.

What about the people who don’t want to feel like they’re out on the town when they’re sweating up a storm? Located in New York City’s West Village, luxury gym and private spa S10 – designed by Büro Koray Duman in a former manufacturing space – combines a no-fuss, austere workout zone with pale-tone, timber-clad recovery rooms. Going a step further, new Hong Kong address GymTown takes interior inspiration from Mars, with elements in the planet's distinctive red and textural finishes throughout. Outfitted with the best in Italian fitness equipment, the MR Studio-designed venue marks brand GymTown's venture from traditional gyms into 'high-end social clubs'. 

Cover and above: State-of-the-art training gear is matched with premium social spaces at the Mars-inspired GymTown Club in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Heimat in Los Angeles looks like a cross between a WeWork and a trendy boutique hotel, with reformer Pilates machines in a Scandinavian-esque space and an eclectically decorated lobby and bar. Interior designer Martin Brudnizki took charge of the social areas while Inco Media worked on the fitness spaces. Earlier this year, the brand extended its lush private community to Paris, opening a women-only, art-led place in the centre of the city. Somali model Waris Dirie is behind Heimat’s French arm, speaking to the gym’s celebrity allure. The brand is pushed as a ‘natural setting where members can reimagine what it means to live well.’

With locations in LA and Paris, Heimat offers high-brow gym destinations combining fitness and hospitality appeal.

The cross between hospitality and fitness is well-established – we even wrote on hotels’ push toward ‘sportspitality’ back in 2017 – but we live in a different climate of health and wellness now. With the learnings of the pandemic era in mind, operators have the chance to work with designers to new ends, conceiving desirable, experiential spaces that help people live their best life (to borrow Heimat’s sentiment). Part of this means understanding people have different conceptions of what wellness – and luxury – looks like, and that exercise puts some in a place of vulnerability. The intense, blood-pumping design of one venue could be the deciding factor for a potential client, but it could isolate another, seeking a different type of motivation. 

Digital fitness services also have to be factored into the overall experience. ‘Online fitness is going to coexist with the brick-and-mortar gyms,’  Richa Mishra, vice president- of operations at Anytime Fitness India, said to The India Times’ economy bureau. ‘The future will be phygital but online training will be an add-on service,’ said Mishra. While exclusionary even beyond expense, high-ticket gym experiences add value to physical venues – a parallel seen in retail. This may give them considerable leverage over standard destinations, crowded out by apps that enable quality training at home.


Why luxury gym experiences will be the next big thing for fitness (again)

Why luxury gym experiences will be the next big thing for fitness (again)

‘Hospitality design should lead the way rather than merely follow trends’

‘Hospitality design should lead the way rather than merely follow trends’

Designed as an extension of the street, this Shanghai bakery emerges as a community space

Designed as an extension of the street, this Shanghai bakery emerges as a community space