Women Who Go the Distance

She Has a Vision for Luxurious Co-Working, Co-Living, and Co-Traveling

by Daniel Schwartz
Magdalena Magdalena Sartori at Burning Man. Photo by Sharon Aluma.

The Assemblage is far from your ordinary NYC co-working space. The office design is inspired by Vedic architecture. The cafes serve handcrafted elixirs energetically aligned to the time of day. The perks include everything from morning yoga and meditation to panel discussions led by wellness gurus and access to a nature retreat in Upstate New York. The Assemblage also organizes impact trips members can join and even runs its own luxury hotel above its Financial District location, offering digital nomads room, board, and office. We talk with co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Magdalena Sartori — the mind, heart, and soul behind the operation — about how her nomadic upbringing and deep spirituality influence her holistic approach to hospitality.

Tell us about your role at The Assemblage.

My job is to maintain the integrity of the brand, both at a physical and ethereal level, while being fully aligned with its ultimate purpose: To offer spaces in which members can experience the highest version of themselves. I used to be our managing director, and oversaw everything from the brand’s inception, which came about in the Peruvian jungle during my business partner Rodrigo Nino’s successful battle with cancer, to the opening of our first building. I travel often to meet with potential partners and aligned communities, but when I’m in NYC, I spend as much time as possible between our Financial District and NoMad properties and our newest location on Park Avenue, which is under construction.

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Sartori at The Assemblage (left) and The Star House in Boulder, Colorado. Photos by Pamela Gonzalez and Magdalena Sartori.

Very cool. What inspired you to do this?

I’ve always wanted to create environments to inhabit. I was an architect, then a real estate developer, and now I manage a hospitality brand that fully embodies my desire for creating spaces. As a child, I traveled all the time due to my mother’s work at the United Nations. Our home base was in Paris and Geneva, and on weekends and holidays, we would meet wherever she was working and explore the local culture together. We visited the most random places in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico, and China. Though I grew up in an ever-changing environment, envisioning, building, and curating spaces has been one of the constants in my life.

Co-working at the Nomad location. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.
The cafe at the John Street location. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.
The elixir bar at The Assemblage Nomad. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.

How did you approach designing The Assemblage?

A few years ago, I went through a deep reconnection with my feminine body, which opened a multitude of doorways in my creative process into realms of feelings, the unseen, and the esoteric. I now use this new creative access in my work and often approach the creation of spaces from that place. One of the main shifts has been to design for feeling rather than aesthetics, which is based mainly on intuition. I work with several systems like Feng Shui, Vedic architecture, and biogeometry to inform the energetic quality of a space, but none of these work unless you approach them as frameworks for your own inner knowledge.

Did you look at any other spaces for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from the inside, from inner journeys and meditation, but also from listening to the land and the space itself. The only structures that really influence me are sacred buildings — temples, churches, monasteries, and ashrams — which were built with a deep understanding of the power of form and energy flow. Like the troglodyte village of Rochemenier in France, which was built entirely into natural stones and is connected by an underground structure of corridors, and the Temple of Damanhur, a giant system of hidden psychedelic underground temples in the Italian Alps.

Otherwise, most of the inspiration came from walking or sitting in the forests of Upstate New York and in my native country of Uruguay. Some of the elements at The Assemblage, like the mushrooms on the walls, aim to recreate that feeling of peace we get from being in nature in the craziness of New York City. Scent is a large part of the nature experience, so we created our own, called Biophilia, which is named after the hypothesis that humans have an innate tendency to connect with nature. The scent mixes cedar tones with palo santo, copal, and other fragrances used in ceremonies or temples. This is a beautiful representation of our ethos.

Rochemenier (left) and Temple of Damanhur (right). Photos courtesy of Rochemenier and Temple of Damanhur.
A meditation room. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.
Details inspired by Sartori's travels. Photos courtesy of The Assemblage.

How have your travels influenced your work?

They’ve allowed me to create an inner library of visual and cultural inspiration that I often draw from. As a teenager, I was fascinated by Arab culture and traveled a lot through Egypt, Morocco, and the Middle East. My experience of getting lost in the souks — the richness of color, textures, and scents; that delight of the senses — is translated throughout the interiors at The Assemblage, but with a Latin twist, as we source most of our decor from indigenous artisans in Mexico.

Lately, I’ve realized how unconscious this process is, as my mother now sees some of my work and can trace references back to specific travel experiences we had together. We once went on a special trip to Catalonia, Spain, to see the remote village where my mom’s favorite artist, Salvador Dali, used to live with his wife and muse Gala. I have vague memories of it, but remember being deeply impacted by the house, which was designed entirely by Dali with his surrealist aesthetics. It was like stepping into one of his paintings. When I go back to the places I visited as a child, I’m mesmerized by how different my perception is as an adult. I created magical worlds around things that I saw and experienced as a kid. These are things that cannot be seen with adult eyes.

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How does Journeys, your impact travel initiative, fit into the brand's big picture?

Our intention is to create a community more than just a space, and sharing experiences are key to building community. Journeys are quarterly international travel initiatives that help foster real relationships, both within our members and our team. Trips are designed to elevate and assist people and places in genuine and immediate need. We traveled to Puerto Rico to help rebuilt a small community after Hurricane Maria, installing rain harvesting systems and refurbishing a local school. In Mexico, we worked with an agricultural collective and a school, then traveled south for self-care and inner exploration. As this initiative grows, we will continue to support organizations involved in human rights and environmental issues.

One of the perks of belonging to The Assemblage is access to a nature retreat in Upstate New York. How did this idea come about?

It all goes back to Biophilia and our innate need to connect with nature. We wanted to give our community a way to immerse in nature, whether for a corporate off-site during the week or a yoga retreat over the weekend. The land the log cabin is located on is in a powerful energetic spot, very close to where the Woodstock festival took place. You can feel the magnetic charge of the revolutionary energy of the ‘60s.

The Sanctuary in Bethel Woods, New York. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.
A hotel guest room at The Assemblage John Street. Photo courtesy of The Assemblage.

What makes for great hospitality?

Hospitality is about creating a sense of home and belonging. It starts with the team, the people, and the culture. The Assemblage is not just a hospitality brand. We’re creating a container for people to bloom, to come together to work, live, and share space in a meaningful way. Collectively, we are creating a new model for humanity to live on this planet.

What is most rewarding about your job?

I love observing the transformation of thought into form, to see something I envisioned inside my head in real life. There is nothing that fulfills me more than this. It’s why I became an architect.

What's something you've always wanted to do that's on the short list for the future?

I’ve always wanted to go on an ancient pilgrimage, like Santiago de Compostela, to experience what it’s like to go on a metaphorical journey into our own beliefs, with stops along the way in places that have been energetically charged for that purpose. I also want to visit Auroville, an experimental community in southern India with a futuristic spherical temple and botanical gardens that protects the region’s tropical forest.

Photo courtesy of Auroville.

Speed Round! Fathom Questionnaire!

Favorite destinations: Sacred sites around the world (pyramids, temples).

Bizarre travel rituals: I always set up a small altar wherever I'm sleeping.

In-flight relaxation regimen: Listen to meditation music in airports and during flights to avoid lower frequencies. Also travel with coconut oil to avoid dehydration of skin.

Always in carry-on: My iPad and essential oils.

Travel hero: Le Corbusier. His travel journals contain the most precious architectural observations.

Weirdest thing seen on travels: Ayahuasca visions in the jungle.

I dream about my meal at Garzon, Francis Mallman’s mystical restaurant in a ghost town in the countryside of Uruguay.

Best hotel amenity: Incense burner.

Favorite childhood travel memory: Egypt with my mother. It felt like another planet but also strangely familiar.

I always bring home stones, shells, or anything from the land.

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