There is a valuable excess of real estate in cities, despite the claustrophobic lack of public space, and New York Times best-selling author Julien Smith intends to take advantage of it. Smith is the founder and CEO of Breather, which is essentially a spatial taxi service: “a distributed network of private space” wherein members rent a room in the neighbourhood for their temporary need. Get your mind out of the gutter. “A desk to work. A couch to chill. Fast Wifi. Enough space to do yoga, enough comfort to take a nap. Designed for simplicity and flexibility, Breather rooms are what you make of them. Think of Breather as your second home in the city. A beautifully designed space for peace and privacy—wherever and whenever you need it.”
To create its network of mini business lounges, Breather takes over the space, redesigns it and makes it available for its members to use on demand. By using a smartphone app, the rooms are geolocated on a map and the doors unlock with the phone (the startup has partnered with Lockitron to mobilize this emerging technology).
Of course, members are likely going to fit the ‘global nomad’ profile (you might have spotted them in coffee shops around the world), providing them with a temporary private asylum to do as they will without having to pay for endless rounds of coffee. The initiative has targeted New York City for launch late 2013 and is entering a niche market, it says, with little to no competition. The estimated rate will be $20 (USD) per hour.
Smith seeks to “democratize the city” by unlocking doors into a private layer of the metropolis, which is not entirely new but with legal pushback against shared/access/collaborative solutions à la AirBnb, it might be just the right moment for more official and contractual options like Breather to come along.