It’s barely been two months since Soho House opened new doors in Barcelona, but it feels like they’ve been there since forever. Just like Chris Glass, the European Membership Director from Soho House since 2009, who could hardly enjoy the city and now he’s even thinking about getting a house here. Maybe by the Gothic Quarter, where we find the building holding this hotel and international club, one of the best known in the world, one which celebrates comfort and creativity.
“We want Soho House to feel like a home away from home,” Chris Glass says. And you can feel it. Everything here has the purpose to make you feel good. The hotel rooms, of course; but not only that. On the fifth floor, this social club can drip a relaxed and peaceful environment in which you would take time for a long reading and, also, it can make you feel like working, but far from the office strain and in between the hubbub of the waiters who go up and down. One floor upstairs, the most wanted to-be spot in the city, Soho House’s swimming pool, is there, in a magnificent flat roof offering the views of the port, down by the sea, and the city. There’s another pool downstairs, in the spa. And for those who are sport lovers, the first floor is an equipped and welcoming gym in which you could spend hours just to be in there. On top of it, there are the restaurants, and very soon the cinema is opening. As if you couldn’t have enough, next year the Little Beach House is opening also in Garraf, an area very close to Barcelona. Let’s let Chris tell us about the rest.
Hey Chris, please, introduce yourself to our audience. Who is Chris Glass and what is your position at Soho House?
Chris Glass is a Georgia born Berliner who loves anything my mom cooks, traveling and glossy magazines (#iheartmetal). I am also the European Membership Director for Soho House and joined the company in 2009. I travel throughout Europe, supporting our existing Houses and panting the seeds to grow communities in cities where we are launching.
With the opening of Soho House Barcelona we saw you here many times. What do you think about the city and what do you enjoy more about Barcelona?
When I first started working on the project here in Barcelona, I was very hesitant. I'd been to Barcelona several times as a tourist and didn't really enjoy it. Once I came and met locals and got to know the local culture better, all of that changed. Now I am very much in love with the city. I'm even considering buying property here. The city is an ideal size – not too big, not too small. And when the tourists empty out at the end of the year, you feel like you have it all to yourself. Of course, all of the normal attributes are great (the weather, the sea, the beautiful people, etc.). But more than that, I think the subtle things about the city are special – the design of the doors, the sidewalks in Eixample, the way the lights reflect on the water in the marina, the silence of the city from atop Tibidabo, the great food in unexpected places, the ladies walking their dogs in Gràcia, the easy cool of the hipsters and the simple sophistication of the long time Barcelonians.
To the people who don't know: what is Soho House?
Soho House was founded in London in 1995 as a home away from home for people working in creative fields. There are Houses located in the UK, Berlin, Istanbul, New York, West Hollywood, Miami, Chicago and Toronto. Unlike other members’ clubs, which often focus on wealth and status, we aim to assemble communities of members that have something in common: namely, a creative soul. The majority of our members work in traditional creative industries, with the film, fashion, advertising, music, art and media sectors, among others, heavily represented.
Soho House Barcelona opened its doors 2 months ago. How has it been during this time? I would like to know what is the feedback from people, what does people appreciate more about having Soho House in the city?
What's funny is that though we opened only 2 months ago, but it feels like the House has always been here. This opening has been one of our best. The members understood the House immediately – how to use it and how it fits into their daily lives – and they appreciate how it's already changed the way the city socializes. The team is warm and engaging and that is something that people are very impressed by as well. Our events are a new way for people to meet people with shared interests as well as learn something new. And the facilities of the House are a cut above everything else in the city. It's really a somewhat magical place.
It's a fact that some countries have a bigger social private clubs tradition, like United Kingdom or United States. This is not our case in Spain, it also happens in cities such as Berlin or Istanbul, in which you are present. Do you feel that at these cities the welcoming from the public is different, perhaps because of lack of knowledge or tradition?
Each opening and each process is very different. And we've learned over the years to not try and force the English way or the American way on a new city. We have to create a Club that services the local community. And part of that process is allowing the disconnect and the confusion – and from that we create education and awareness. That is a gradual process. The best compliment I've ever been given is from a member who said: “I didn’t know what Soho House was before it opened, but today I cannot imagine my life without it.” That sense of integration and value is very wholistic.
I'm sure that some people who will be reading this will be like, ok, I like it!, how can I be part of this? There is a procedure to follow and a quote to pay. Could you explain that please? Do members need to have a certain profile to apply?
We encourage people to go to our website and complete the online application. The application is simple and asks for some general information about you and what you would like to contribute to our creative community. We present these applications every 3 months to a committee that we've appointed of local Barcelonans who help us to understand who our members should be. The cost of membership is 125 Euros per month for a local membership and 150 Euros per month for a global membership. This gives you access to all of the facilities of the House (gym, pool, cinema, etc.) as well as our events and our global online network of members.
People under 27 are very welcome at Soho House and they have important benefits, right?
We offer a 50% discount on the price for people under the age of 27. They are usually just starting out in their careers and as much as they would like to be a part of Soho House, the cost could be prohibitive. They keep the special rate until they turn 30 in fact. We even offer a 50% discount on Mondays for food and drinks for our U27 members as well. We believe that they are our future members as well, so we want to encourage young people to access the House. They're also very open to non traditional work spaces and networking opportunities. And many of them have heard of our clubs around the world.
Soho House is focused on the creative people, as you said, and that is what I love. But as it always happens with this kind of projects, a few of these creative people don't feel part of this; people shy away from being part of a private club and therefore somehow elitist. Something like, “I don't need to being part of a club to be cool or to meet cool people”. How do you manage this? Is this something you’re worried about?
Our aim is not to be cool. Our aim is not to be exclusive. We want Soho House to feel like a home away from home. And 'home' is an inclusive place. We are the reaction to the more established clubs that focus on money or status or standing. So for many creative people, this is exactly the environment they want to be in. So we try to focus our energies on what we are, instead of what we are not. Connecting with other like-minded creative people is a very rewarding opportunity.
Soho House has a help program for creative young people who can't afford the membership. I think is a great idea, could you explain more about it, please? Can people apply to the scholarships?
We created a scholarship program when we opened the House in Istanbul to help create access for talented young people who don't have the financial means to be members. The program includes a complimentary membership for one year, but also a series of programming and mentoring to support these young people move to the next level of their careers. And in exchange, they create something to give back to the Soho House community. It's all about giving back. We're still in the process of setting up the program in Barcelona, but anyone who has questions about the program or anything else related to membership is always welcome to contact us.
One of my favorite things about Soho House Barcelona is the gym: it's amazing and quiet, almost feels like having a gym at home. What is yours?
The truth is, I try to avoid the gym as much as possible –gives me more time to enjoy our delicious food! One of my favourite parts of the House is to sit at the bar, working on my laptop and watching all the beautiful and friendly people who come in and out of the Club.
And also there’s another Soho House at the lovely place of Garraf. What can you tell us about it? It's important to say that you will be able to go to the Garraf House with the Barcelona membership. Is there an opening date, will it be open next Summer? That’d actually be great.
Yes –we are planning to open the Little Beach House in Garraf next year. The date has not been set yet, but it should be open in time for some hot summer nights. There will be a small selection of rooms as well as dining on the beach and lots of programming for our members as well. We're very excited about being able to offer Barcelona members two Houses within such short proximity to each other.
As you know in Barcelona we have a very good restaurants. Tell us about the ones in Soho House. I have to confess that I'm an addict to Chicken Shop...
I am also a Chicken Shop addict. It's one of the first — and last — places I visit on each trip to Barcelona. I also am a huge fan of the food in the Club. The menu changes monthly and is a nice balance of locally inspired dishes with a Catalan flare alongside standards from our Houses around the world. And the icing on the cake, is the Italian restaurant we just opened called Cecconi's. It is the most beautiful of our restaurants and has food that will keep you coming back for more. Try the spaghetti lobster with a glass of Vino Tinto.
I will. And to finish, I'd like you to invite people to join Soho House. Why should they?
Soho House is a new way of thinking. It's a place and it's an attitude. It's about inclusion and celebrating the creative spirit that is so important in the history and the future of Barcelona. As Barcelona becomes more and more important in the global creative scene, people need a hub, or a place to call home. And we provide that in a luxurious setting with no fuss or attitude. Soho House is a place for friends, for family, for loved ones, or sometimes just to be alone. And you get out of it, what you put into it.