Products of unfavorable chemical equilibria are not readily observed because their high energy and increased reactivity result in low concentrations. Biological macromolecules use binding forces to access unfavorable equilibria and stabilize reactive intermediates by isolating them from the medium. In a similar vein, we describe here a synthetic receptor that allows direct observation of labile tetrahedral intermediates: hemiaminals formed in the reaction of an aldehyde carbonyl group with amines. The receptor encapsulates alkyl-substituted primary amines, then orients them toward a covalently tethered aldehyde function. The hemiaminal intermediates appear at high concentration, confined from the bulk solution and observable at ambient temperature by conventional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.