Most people hate open offices. They’re loud, people sneeze every minute, and there’s barely any privacy. But what if your open office was a climbing gym and your coworkers constantly cheered in admiration at people scaling the walls in the background?
At Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, a combination climbing gym and collaborative workspace in Somerville, Massachusetts, people do their work in the middle of utter chaos–and according to Jesse Levin, the facility’s “Senior Cultural Chameleon” (he deals with everything that isn’t related to rock-climbing), they love it.
“When you’re really in touch with your body physically, it affects every facet of your life,” he says. “I never quite understood why there was such a segregation between your career and working and going to the gym and community interaction. It made a lot of sense to me to bring it all together.” This belief in the mind-boosting power of physicality touches other areas of Levin’s life as well–when he’s not working at Brooklyn Boulders, he runs Tactivate, a program aimed at turning military special operations veterans into entrepreneurs (the general manager of the gym is a reserve officer in the Navy).
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville just opened four months ago, but it’s the sister facility to the original four-year-old Brooklyn Boulders gym (located in Brooklyn, obviously), which doesn’t have a collaborative work component.
The workspace, planted in the middle of a 40,000-square-foot climbing facility, is located on top of a 120-foot-long and 22-foot-high climbing wall. There’s free Wi-Fi, a lounge area with couches, a communal table, a smattering of standing desks with built-in pull-up bars, seated desks with balance ball chairs, and a few quiet spaces. No special membership is necessary–any member of the climbing facility can work there for free. “It’s like the sauna. It’s a perk of the facility,” says Levin.
He believes that one of the main benefits to using the co-working space is the proximity it gives to the kinds of people who would want to work in a climbing gym. “Climbing inherently attracts venture capitalists, artists, programmers,” Levin says. “It’s a very cerebral sport, and they mix naturally. We’re giving them a space where they can embody and live this lifestyle.”
The collaborative workspace has proven to be popular, in spite of the recent backlash against open workspaces. In addition to accommodating individual workers, the space has also played host to corporate meetings (companies like Puma and Vita-Coco) and a hackathon to develop fitness-related applications, which saw participants doing push-ups and taking turns on the climbing wall in between coding sessions. In 2014, the gym will host a TEDx event.
It’s hard to imagine using the gym as a primary workspace, but it’s a worthy experiment at the very least. “In no way shape or form is this your traditional sterile, polished workspace,” says Levin.