You’ve co-worked, co-lived and co-exercised. Are you ready to co-commune?
Welcome to the Assemblage, a new club in Manhattan’s upscale NoMad neighborhood. Its evening-only memberships start at $200 per month, all-day use is $900 — and the menu of services tops out at $6,500 for amenities that include a private office with “room to stretch your legs.”
On a recent night Alberto Villoldo, a medical anthropologist, psychologist and shaman, gave a talk in the club’s dim lobby called “Hacking Your Neurology With Sacred Plant Medicine.” To a packed crowd of mostly young urban professionals, some still in suits and ties from the work day, Mr. Villoldo was extolling the benefits of ayahuasca, a psychedelic substance made from Amazonian tree vines, broccoli flower extract and daily doses of omega-3.
“I don’t think there’s a topic that is closer to my heart,” said Rodrigo Niño, the founder of the club. Mr. Niño, 48 and the C.E.O. of Prodigy, a platform that uses crowdfunding to buy commercial real estate, was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma six years ago. Terrified of dying, he found an article in National Geographic about ayahuasca. He promptly left for Peru to spend two weeks taking the substance and reckoning with his own mortality.
“What I saw from that perspective was that society today was not in very good shape,” Mr. Niño said. “What I saw, in this hallucination, was how all living things were connected as one, but we were not aware of it rationally.”
When Mr. Niño returned to New York, he was no longer plagued by fear of death, he said. But he struggled to integrate his vision of interconnectedness with his daily work. “I had this radical inner knowing that we were all together as one,” Mr. Niño said, “but I was a real-estate developer, an economist, from a mathematical, evidence-based background. I couldn’t prove it.”
He has now decided to give it a try in $400 million worth of Manhattan real estate that include two other Assemblange-branded locations, one on lower Park Avenue and the other in the financial district, that will offer apartments and a hotel.
Mr. Niño said his new company was funded from small investments from more than 34 countries, and that every new qualifying member of the organization will be given the option of investing to become a co-owner of the buildings themselves.
He has donated some of his contemporary art collection to decorate the NoMad club, as well as Peruvian weavings he ordered specially made from the Shipibo tribe whose ayahuasca ceremonies he attended during his trip.
The Assemblage defines its prime audience as those who are at “the intersection of technology, consciousness and capital” and displays such slogans as “We don’t work; We Assemble,” on its Instagram account. The marketing language seems designed to appeal to those who attend Burning Man and the Daybreaker dance parties; who revere Alan Watts and Pema Chodron; who use words like “conscious” and “transformational.”
“I’ve been telling people I’m 15 percent happier since I joined,” said Mark Krassner, standing with a woven shawl draped over his shoulders near an “elixir bar.” (No alcohol is served by the Assemblage; instead there are essences and infusions that purportedly enhance the complexion, digestion and mood.)
Mr. Krassner, 34, and a founder of Expectful, a meditation app for women before, during and after pregnancy, praised Assemblage’s food — an ayurvedic breakfast and lunch are included for full membership levels, and vegan snacks are available — and the spiritual leanings of the other members. “At other co-working spaces I might have gotten along with 30 percent of the people,” he said. “Here, I feel such a deep connection with all the people I meet.”
The club opens officially later this month but has already attracted roughly 250 members, Mr. Niño said, as well as curious attendees of near-nightly events covering such topics as honing your psychic powers, creating sacred spaces and building Shamanic communities. Along with desks and conference rooms and the usual accouterments of co-working life, there is a rooftop garden and meditation rooms throughout the building, and plans to equip those rooms with artificial intelligence that will guide members through daily mantras.
“It’s an upgrade for the consciousness movement,” said the author Daniel Pinchbeck, a member who often writes about psychedelic culture and has lectured, with Sergio Magaña, a healer, on the topic of “how to awaken the voltaic dream time.”
As for Mr. Niño, his own voltaic dream includes eventually opening branches of the Assemblage in cities around the world. “We truly need to have a place of convergence for those who understand that there is more than who we are,” he said. “For those who feel we could be defined not only by the known, but by the unknown.”