Here’s what you’ll experience at Refinery29’s immersive playground, 29Rooms

Written by
Jennifer Picht

In 2015, women’s media brand Refinery29 debuted its first free, open-to-the-public exhibition 29Rooms during Fashion Week, drawing in 5,000 people. Over the course of, yes, 29 rooms designed by retail brands, artists and other creatives inside an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn, the choose-your-own-adventure experience was a hit, instantly becoming one of the most Instagrammed events of the year.

Now, the ticketed third installment (housed in a larger, 90,000-square-foot space in Williamsburg) is more than just a selfie nirvana, but a discovery zone destined to give you the feels. “There are a lot of events that are designed for Instagram, which is great,” says R29’s cofounder and executive creative director Piera Gelardi, “but they’re not always memorable beyond taking the picture.” This year’s visually arresting, immersive presentations explore controversial issues—think transgender bathroom laws—as well as big ideas like aggression and resilience, all connected to the theme “Turn It Into Art.” (Yes, like the Carrie Fisher quote.) And R29’s diverse group of makers for this go-round is a doozy, including emerging and established talent such as actor Jake Gyllenhaal, artist JeeYoung Lee, poet Ashlee Haze and musician Madame Gandhi.

Still, for all the heavy messages, the four-day, sold-out affair is still as whimsical as ever and boasts playful attractions such as a vintage carousel tricked out with unicorns instead of horses, as well as a giant, colorful foam pit for you to jump in. Not psyched for 29Rooms 3.0 yet? Refinery29 shared their appendix for this year’s amazing rooms. Check out what the brand has to say about the activations below!

(Room descriptions and concepts subject to change.)

ART HEALS in collaboration with The Art of Elysium: This room will arm each guest with their own paintbrush and palette to add their individual contribution to a living installation that celebrates hope and highlights the healing power of art, created in collaboration with The Art of Elysium, the non-profit artist driven organization dedicated to creativity and inspiration. 

THE ART OF INNOVATION in collaboration with Cadillac and Jason Wu: Bringing Cadillac’s design legacy to life, this room will feature a soaring display of items emblematic of human ingenuity. Dipped in the custom hue created by Jason Wu to mark the conception of sister brand GREY, the installation will mimic the mind’s journey from a fleeting thought to a personalized full-fledged creation.  

BECOME THE MASTERPIECE in collaboration with Alexa Meade: In this double room featuring two contrasting artistic styles both painted by Alexa Meade, the walls are the canvas and the guests are the masterpiece. Grab a prop and get into character while channeling your inner muse. You’ll become part of the scene as you turn yourself into art.

BEHIND THE FLAVOR in collaboration with Dunkin’ Donuts®Coffee at Home: What’s Your Flavorite? Explore a playground of delightfully rich flavors in this whimsical aroma kitchen! Let your taste buds experience their favorite, then vote in the room to help choose the next Dunkin' Donuts® Bakery Series® coffee flavor.

BRIGHT FUTURE in collaboration with Planned Parenthood: This large-scale installation shines its bright neon lights on the importance of providing quality health care and accurate information to everyone—no matter who they are or where they live. Listen to the stories of those who’ve been touched by Planned Parenthood and pledge your support for the millions of people who the organization could continue to help.

CHAMBERS OF BEAUTY in Collaboration With Clarins: Experience Next Generation Double Serum. Be transported as you enter the dual chambers where the best of plant extracts combine with groundbreaking science to create a powerful anti-aging serum.

CLOUD POOL in collaboration with Chiaozza: Dive into this utopian paradise created in collaboration with Brooklyn-based visual artists Chiaozza. Guests immerse themselves into the alluring dream pit, made of purple foam blocks and colorfully patterned inflatables, surrounded by brightly tasseled ‘Cloud Sprouts’ floating amidst a playfully patterned backdrop. CLOUD POOL is a place to shed your insecurities, reflect upon hopes and dreams, and harness your inner child.

DREAMER’S DEN in collaboration with Juno Calypso and Katrina Cunningham: Enter this surreal speakeasy, grab a seat, and watch as this fiery and ethereal siren Katrina Cunningham turns your thoughts into art. Surrounded by the imagery of British artist Juno Calypso, guests are welcomed into an interactive space featuring live singing from Cunningham, who will turn the dreams guests share into a song on the spot.

EROTICA IN BLOOM in collaboration with Maisie Cousins: Inside this multi-sensory experience, artist Maisie Cousins blurs the lines between sex, art, and nature. Inspired by the age old sexual symbolism of flowers, guests will step inside life-sized pods for a provocative and playful thrill ride featuring custom content that engages all the senses.

THE FUTURE IS FEMALE in collaboration with Madame Gandhi and Jen Mussari: Take out your frustrations on hand painted punching bags by illustrator Jen Mussari.  Fit with punching gloves and surrounded by the pumping sounds of the powerful single, “The Future Is Female” by electronic music artist Madame Gandhi, guests will create a beautiful stress-free symphony together.

GENDER NEUTRAL in collaboration with Jill Soloway’s Topple: Recreating the refuge and familiar sanctity of a high school bathroom, this space invites guests to listen to first-person stories on their own of the first awareness of gender identity from Roberta Colindrez, Rhys Ernst, Alexandra Grey, Amos Mac, Bashir Naim, and Pigeon Pagonis. Created in collaboration with Emmy-winning director and creative force Jill Soloway and artist Xavier Schipani, the intimate space lets attendees share in these highly personal moments of self-discovery.

GLACÉ GETAWAY in collaboration with Juicy Couture: Ready for a vacay? We’re taking you on a tropical vacation, with a twist. Hot and cold collide in this magical life-size snow globe world of frozen beauty set on a utopic beach landscape. Give yourself a spritz of the Viva La Juicy Glacé fragrance, throw on a pair of frosted pink Juicy sunnies, and enjoy the best of summer and winter all at once.

HARMONY in collaboration with Chloe x Halle and Benjamin Shine: This sound and visual installation is a collaboration between British artist and designer Benjamin Shine and sisters and recording artists Chloe x Halle. Exploring the many intertwining layers that make up the bond of sisterhood, the space celebrates the duality of the physical and spiritual connection and the beauty of energies uniting.  

HEAR OUR VOICE in collaboration with Women’s March: Capturing the potent spirit of activism from the Women’s March, this space takes you back to that historic moment, asking you to channel your creativity to unite and use the power of our collective voices. Surrounded by the artwork created in collaboration with Refinery29 as well as work by Amplifier, guests can write a message to their national representative and continue to push that revolutionary energy forward. 

JUST BE in collaboration with Ashlee Haze, Jonathan Rosen and Wallplay: In collaboration with spoken word artist Ashlee Haze, artist Jonathan Rosen and Wallplay, this space will surround guests with the words of Haze, while Rosen’s interactive mirror allows them to reflect and celebrate different aspects of their bodies without limit or judgment.

LAUGH-O-MATIC in collaboration with Sasheer Zamata: Laughter is contagious in this colorful interactive space that will capture the comedic spirit of actress and comedian Sasheer Zamata. Head through a life-size car wash complete with a bubble chamber, and come out smiling on the other side.  

LIGHT IT UP In collaboration with Symmetry Labs:  In this room, the only limit is your imagination. Step inside this scenescape from Symmetry Labs and create your own symphony of lights. Stacked cubes of LED lights form a musical playground that react to your every move in this living installation that marries science, art, and next gen technology.

LOVE WALK in collaboration with Aldo: Aldo invites guests to take their very own love walk on a glowing, re-imagined runway made for shoe-lovers. Stomp, dance, strut, skip, groove: you choose. It’s time to celebrate the passion and personal style that makes you part of the #AldoCrew.

MOVE AND BE MOVED in collaboration with Lizzo: Both an intimate and collective experience all at once, be in your own head while feeding off the energy of attendees’ togetherness. Set to the pumping music of rapper-singer Lizzo, we invite you to escape from it all for a short while, throw on some headphones, hit the dance floor and join us in this silent disco.

NEUROSPECULATIVE AFROFEMINISM in collaboration with Hyphen-Labs: In this virtual reality scape, you’re transported to a future of empowerment. Free from the constraints and limitations that are placed on you in your current reality, the only limit is your imagination. Ready to optimize different regions of your mind? Don’t miss your appointment at the neuro-cosmetology lab created by female artistic collective Hyphen-Labs -- it’s time to gain access to a digital multiverse.

OCEAN OF CREATIVITY in collaboration with Jee Young Lee: In collaboration with Korean contemporary artist Jee Young Lee, this room will turn trash collected from around New York City into an entirely sustainable seascape portrait that guests can step into to create the last link in this transformative chain. 

SEEN & UNSEEN in collaboration in JUCO: Though seemingly random, all things, seen and unseen, are connected. We are intrinsically linked to everything in the world around us, though we often can’t visualize the connections. Step into this space in collaboration with artistic duo JUCO, activate your aura and start to see the un-seeable. 

SHOW FACE In Collaboration with Short Cuts: Created to give beauty a purpose, Refinery29's Short Cuts series aims to inspire you to explore your own creativity. A no-holds-barred approach to beauty, we color outside the lines, embrace personal style, and help you find beauty looks that make you feel like your best self. Whether you’re goth or glam, polished or punk, flashy or fiery, there's a Short Cut for you. Mixing technology with beauty, take a step into this space, turn yourself into the Short Cuts canvas, and watch as you become art.

SHRED IT in collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal: Through roadblocks and hurdles, challenges and setbacks, the true strength of the human spirit lies in our ability to persevere and overcome. Inspired by the message of resilience and renewal in the upcoming film “Stronger,” in this space take whatever’s weighing you down and turn it into art. The film, starring and produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, is based on the true story of Jeff Bauman, who after losing both of his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing went through an extraordinary journey of personal strength to rebuild his life. Shred the past, let it go, and come out stronger.

SONIC SPIN in collaboration with Dyson: Once reliant on wind and rain, technology can now be harnessed to its fullest potential. Engineered with precision in mind, this room lets you power your morning routine with the Dyson SupersonicTM hair dryer, the tech company’s latest invention.

TALES WE TELL in collaboration with Emma Roberts & Karah Preiss: A larger than life typewriter will set the scene in this space inspired by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss’ Belletrist book community. Celebrating female authors and helping to keep the art of storytelling alive, you’ll be greeted by dozens of empty books that you can write in -- whether crafting your own story or adding to someone else’s.

THE BEAUTY CAROUSEL in collaboration with Ulta Beauty: Our go-to for all things beauty all in one place, we’re celebrating Ulta Beauty’s much-anticipated arrival to Manhattan this fall with a whimsical and beautified carousel! Ready to watch your style go round and round? Hop on and take a ride. 

THE WOMB in collaboration with Cleo Wade: A fully immersive experience recreating the sensation of being inside a mother’s womb. Crawl into the giant enclosed bean bag, curl up, and soak in all the love while listening to a meditative poem written and recited by artist Cleo Wade. Replenish your love of self and others in this comfortable space so that you may reenter the world with more love to give. 

SEARCH PARTY mural in collaboration with Turner’s TBS: In anticipation of the new season of Search Party on TBS (premiering Nov. 19th), Refinery29 will create a hypnotizing installation that pulls onlookers in and transforms them into one of Search Party’s playful promo artwork, inspired by Hitchcock's iconic poster art. 

EAT SIMPLE, LIVE BIG in collaboration with Lärabar: Lettering artist and illustrator Lauren Hom will create a visual installation that reimagines some of the key ingredients found in your favorite Lärabar products in a unique and artful way. Utilizing artistic design treatments, the result will be a captivating mural that illustrates the variety of flavors, ingredients, and textures while highlighting the simplicity at the core of Lärabar products.

At 29Rooms, Refinery29 and Casper will come together to bring the Casper Pillow to life in a dream-like art installation made entirely from the pillows. Guests are invited to experience the unique pillow-in-pillow design, in a dreamer's escape that blends softness, support, and a soft touch of fluff.

Sight Unseen will be curating a group of five New York design teams who will turn discarded furniture, industrial materials, and studio scraps into art for attendees to lounge on throughout the 29Rooms space. The design studios include: The Principals, Asa Pingree, Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Pat Kim, and Vonnegut Kraft.

29Rooms is at 106 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Fri 8–Sept 11 11am–10pm. Tickets are SOLD OUT!

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