The Night Heron was a legendary, short-lived speakeasy in a dry water tower in Chelsea, Manhattan. It operated undetected for 7 weeks in the winter of 2013. The proprietor, N.D. Austin, was inspired by my adventures in water towers, both wet and dry. Some 700 people visited the tiny illegal bar, each one being gifted admission by someone who attended before them.

I served as Head of the Brain Trust for the project, advising on the guest journey and experience. After the Night Heron closed, I synthesized insights from the project into my and N.D.’s existing design practice, Sextantworks. The Night Heron’s gifting admission system, embodied by pocket watches, was our most sophisticated manifestation of using generosity to provoke engagement and transformation in the face of certain risk.

The core team consisted of Dirby (material design and build out), Myric Lehner (finances and security), and Lindsay Arden Cooper (guest stewardship and bar management). Photos by Yoni Brook.

Visit the Website Press: The New York Times Press: The New Yorker Essay: Notes on Gift Giving