Capital #gains: Design-led gyms are getting Londoners’ pulses racing

Pulsing lights, state-of-the-art equipment and next-level classes. Gyms are changing – and we're benefitting from it

Third Space has a new location on Mark Lane in the City, but is ‘gym’ the right word for it? There’s no strip lighting, sweaty mats or queues for the treadmill. Instead, it’s all oak panelling, sculptural copper ceilings designed by London architects Studio RHE, and performance-enhancing details, like a high-altitude hypoxic training chamber. It’s about as far from the ‘glorified basement’ look as it’s possible to get.

‘First, we’re clubs, not gyms,’ explains Colin Waggett, CEO of Third Space. ‘More like a private members’ club or a cool hotel. We want people to come out and think: “Wow, this is unlike any gym I’ve ever been to”.’

To that end, the company will commit over £50 million to its London portfolio over the next five years, which will see another branch open in Islington in early 2019.

Upmarket US fitness brand Equinox also launched another London outpost, in St James’s, earlier this year. Designed by Joyce Wang Studio, the space boasts marble pillars and a state-of-the-art air purifying system. Equinox hasn’t put a figure on its planned investment in London, but there are two new openings – in Shoreditch and Bishopsgate – scheduled for the next few months.

Then there’s a new luxe offering from fashion photographer Max Oppenheim. His gym, BLOK, which recently added a second location in Shoreditch, was designed by the London-based Daytrip Studio. Polished concrete floors and bespoke lighting lend it an ‘industrial chic’ aesthetic. Photography by Oppenheim is on display in the space, along with installations by visual artist and designer Ben Cullen Williams. ‘Spit and sawdust’, this ain’t.

It’s all part of a broader shift, says Third Space’s Waggett. ‘The role of clubs and gyms in people’s lives is changing. They want to personally identify with the spaces. We aspire to create an emotional response of “I bloody love this place”.’