A new breed of hybrid spaces is reimagining city life for modern urbanites.

Urban living is on the rise. A 2018 report from the United Nations projects that two out of three people will be living in urban hubs by 2050, bringing about 2.5 billion more people into already crowded cities. As the topography of city life evolves, a new breed of public space is emerging, blurring the line between private and public realms while consolidating a range of functionalities for the modern city dweller.

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3den alcove seating
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3den lounge area
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3den (pronounced “eden”) is reimagining the exclusive members’ club and high-end co-working concepts for the public by providing luxury amenities at an affordable, pay-as-you-go price. Launched in March 2019 in New York City’s newly opened Hudson Yards development, the self-described “urban sanctuary” offers respite from the hectic city with a roster of services catering to “the in-between moments of the day.” At an entry of $6 per 30 minutes, visitors can take advantage of Casper nap pods, soundproof phone booths, private showers, meditation rooms, work stations, couches for lounging, distraction-free alcove seating, charging stations and refreshments, with future plans to integrate yoga.

“We’re an aggregate of the best parts of the coffee shop, the hotel lobby, elements of a gym and various other resources,” 3den founder and CEO Ben Silver tells JWT Intelligence. “We’re not reinventing the wheel when it comes to consumer behavior; these are things that people are already doing, but they’re doing them in a very disparate and dysfunctional manner. We’re aggregating them into a much better consumer experience.”

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3den work stations

Silver came up with the idea when he was traveling between San Francisco and New York for business and would find himself stranded between meetings. “There was no default place for me to go,” he says. “You start to look at the landscape of what’s available to you and it’s actually pretty limited – it’s very fractional.”

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3den urban oasis

But, Silver insists, 3den is not catering exclusively to the sleek corporate jetsetter – the space is designed for a wide variety of needs. Weekdays draw a more professional crowd, while weekends attract everyone from families to tourists to locals. “We have a lot of different demographics that use the space,” says Silver, “and that’s the beauty of what we’ve created…it has so many different uses and so many different utilities.”

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3den's spa-inspired bathrooms
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This democratization of services is at the core of the company’s ethos. “I think there’s always been this innate problem of under-provision of public utility,” says Silver. “You leave it in the public sector and there’s no motivation to provide these things in a high-quality or adequate fashion.” Then, at the other end of the spectrum, “there’s a lot of different members’ clubs, which are very exclusive and charge a lot of money, but that doesn’t help everyone else,” Silver explains. 3den hopes to bridge these two realms by creating a happy medium. “High design is often complemented by high price, and we’re saying it doesn’t have to be like that. You can have a well-designed place which has a lot of utility to people and is also affordable and accessible.”

Meanwhile, at Milan Design Week 2019, Swiss furniture company USM and Dutch architecture firm UNStudio joined forces to present their own take on the third space. Featuring USM’s modular products, the exhibition created informal environments that merged recreation, relaxation and work, while integrating aspects of nature. The exhibition invited visitors to reconsider their daily habits in the context of this hybridized environment. “When we think about this area between home and work, it is not something that can be created and designed top down, it’s more the idea that we offer a frame,” said Thomas Dienes, product development director at USM. “And within this frame people will go on designing the place by themselves.”

All images courtesy of 3den