Joshua Abram, Alan Murray, & James O’Reilly
By Tiffany Jow
Portrait by Will Adler
Despite fifteen years of starting sizable companies, veteran tech entrepreneurs Alan Murray and Joshua Abrams kept encountering the same problem. “There’s always a collision between the entrepreneurial moment and big-city real estate,” Abrams says. “The ambition and sophistication of great small companies are often ill-matched with the spaces they find themselves in, especially in creative capitals like New York.” They joined forces with James O’Reilly, who helped develop the curated retail experience behind New York’s Ace Hotel and brought an outsider perspective to their conundrum.
All three were acutely aware of how rapid economic change was affecting talented, artistic people: no longer working for The Man, they were intrigued by the notion of achieving ambitious feats by themselves or with a small team. Traditional office environments were hardly conducive to these inspired individuals. “We saw an opportunity to do something radical: to rethink how entrepreneurs in creative industries connect,” Abrams says. The trio began to flesh out a model that reflected an ideal working environment for curious minds.
They determined that contemporary creatives are nomadic and collaborative. They happily blur the boundaries between work and play. The three decided to create an environment that facilitated frequent, chance encounters with practitioners of contrasting industries—a highly curated pool for content-producing collaborations. The result was NeueHouse, a members-only workspace that opened near Madison Square Park in May 2013 and will soon expand to Los Angeles, London, and beyond.
NeueHouse is a multifaceted experience for the global creative class. Located in a renovated five-floor industrial complex, the New York building’s thoughtfully integrated work and social spaces encourage spontaneity and movement. Designed by David Rockwell, a partner in the operation, and Cristina Azario, the principal of NeueHouse’s in-house design firm, its interior utilizes the raw setting to create non-corporate environments that look more boutique hotel than start-up central. Celebrated chef Chris Bradley, a veteran of the Danny Meyer empire who ran the kitchen at the Whitney’s Untitled, oversees its restaurant, The Canteen. Cultural programming, filled with boldfaced names like Nico Muhly, Milton Glaser, and Paul Smith, offers further opportunities for members to interface.
The workspace’s carefully cultivated membership includes individual members (“solopreneurs”) and teams of up to ten; 40 percent hold passports from another country and half of its resident companies are owned by women. Founding members include Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, Dazed & Confused publisher Jefferson Hack, and SpaceX regional director Nathalie Streng. “A filmmaker will be in conversation with a fashion leader, or will intersect with someone who’s writing a novel,” Abram says. “It’s the diversity that makes it so interesting.”
NeueHouse is not a co-working business, Murray insists. Ninety-five percent of its members come from traditional landlord-to-tenant relationships (not a cafe or their parents’ home). They understand that maintaining a balanced diversity within their community is key to brokering cross-pollination.
Last year NeueHouse was approached by the owner of the historic CBS radio building in L.A.’s Columbia Square, the former site of CBS Radio Network’s pioneering West Coast facilities. NeueHouse will officially open there later this summer, catering to the area’s burgeoning creative industries and its many existing members who have another business or office out west.
Built in 1938 by Swiss architect William Lescaze, the structure’s state-of-the-art recording studios helped solidify the city as an entertainment capital. Within its walls, Orson Welles defined a new standard for the then-new medium of radio, Lucille Ball filmed I Love Lucy, and Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded albums. “We always thought the revolutionary work done by NeueHouse members would be broadcast to a larger audience,” Abrams says. “Lo and behold, we were presented with this building—the first in the world to be built for broadcasting. It was love at first sight.”
Located midway between Silver Lake and Echo Park, the structure is a beacon of International style. Lescaze’s conviction that clean lines and pure geometric shapes produce beautiful efficiency is apparent in and outside the building, and in the tiniest details: he even designed housings for microphones. NeueHouse will occupy six floors, which include a 100-seat theater, flower shop, outdoor cabanas, and roof garden to grow produce for its full-service restaurant. The L.A. outpost will have its own art collection and roster of cultural programming. Its interiors have been redesigned by Rockwell and the NeueHouse Design Studio in partnership with London firm March & White, and they’ve been given a curious, colorful twist. “Despite the austerity of their work, architects like Le Corbusier tended in live in environments enriched by ethnic textiles with a domesticated sensibility,” Murray says, noting that North African motifs and artifacts will feature heavily in Neuehouse’s L.A. interiors.
NeueHouse hopes to have twenty locations by 2020: its London outpost will open in early 2016 in the Adelphi Building, near the Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Thames river. Plans for spaces in Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, and Hong Kong are on the horizon. “We will always be focusing on work,” O’Reilly says. “Creating a quality work experience is a big agenda, and that will keep us busy for many years to come.”