Brooklyn Boulders Somerville gives us a whole new definition of open offices.

It's a combination climbing gym and collaborative workspace in Massachusetts.

People do their work in the middle of utter chaos--and according to Jesse Levin, the facility's "Senior Cultural Chameleon," they love it.

"When you're really in touch with your body physically, it affects every facet of your life," he says.

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.

2014-01-09

Co.Exist

At This Coworking Space In A Climbing Gym, You Can Do Pull-Ups At Your Standing Desk

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville is redefining the open office concept. Wouldn't the workday be more fun if it occurred on top of a 22-foot-high climbing wall?

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.

Photo by Natalia Bultukhova

"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.

[Photo by Ed Wonsek]

Add New Comment

12 Comments

  • I work in co-working spaces all over the country and have yet to experience one this creative and multifaceted. Hope this sparks a lot more co-working spaces like this!

  • Misha Katz

    Climbing gym most usually comes with (a terrible) smell. Those "capitalists, artists etc" would be annoyed experiencing that.

  • Andrew Stuckey

    I don't know about other climbing gyms, because this is the only one I need to go to, and out of the twenty plus times I've been here I never noticed any pungent smells, and if I did, I would guess the only reason is you're stinking it up to prove a point.

  • Karin Anderson

    no they dont, I have a feeling you dont actually climb, as I've never been in a gym that actually smelt bad yet.

  • Worlds collide Ariel! Was just in the Panamanian jungle with these guys learning survival skills! Cool space, love that you can take a class to reset focus. Though when digging-deep to focus, I'd probably seek out the quiet corner.

  • Jesse Levin

    Hey Nicole! There are a few nooks where you can find some peace and quiet. Would love to have you come by. Until next time in Panama :-)

  • Jesse Levin

    Hey Chris - The chalk issue is actually not that bad. We have put plants up there to serve as a chalk traps but over time are going to be doing all sorts of experiments to see how we can further minimize the problem. Climbing facilities all around the country face the chalk issue and there really isn't a killer solution out there. I would love to see someone at the MIT Media lab come up with a wild solution. Right now we just aggressively clean the space.