Airport lounge interiors are in the spotlight, with big names stamping their mark on the spaces that make or break a long journey. In the May issue of Perspective, we check out the best designed airport lounge interiors
When one considers the beauty of aircraft design – the elegant symmetry, the feat of engineering that lifts a 300-tonne metal tube into the air and sends it sailing through the skies – it's a shame that the experience of boarding one (namely navigating an airport terminal) often falls short of design majesty.
There are some exceptions, of course. A well-designed premium airline lounge can transport passengers from a transit zone that is utilitarian at best (think John F Kennedy or Charles de Gaulle airports) into a peaceful oasis that is human in scale and restorative in effect.
Designers achieve this by carving a space within a space or, in the case of the CIP lounge at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, a 'shell within a shell'. Gökhan Uzun and Sedef Gökce of Istanbul-based Autoban designed the 280sqm (3,000sqf) Turkish Airlines lounge in homage to the city's Shells within shells in the CIP lounge (pictured below) connect and lead passengers to explore domed mosques, traditional shopping arcades and kervansaray roadside inns where, fittingly, travellers find respite during long journeys. The space, which first opened in 2011, remains one of the best examples of airport lounge interior design.
The lounge was designed to transmit the 'contemporary Turkey experience' to passengers and Autoban came up with the idea of a second shell within the existing shell of the airport hall. "The main structure, established by making use of the traditional architectural arcade system, consists of a combination of global forms," the designers say.
Creating a sense of discovery was also central to Gensler's design for the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX, which opened in 2013. The lounge is modelled after rooms in a house, in particular the mid-century modernist homes for which Los Angeles is known.
"It's a large lounge so we broke the scale down to become a series of rooms like a house where passengers can discover and explore and anticipate what lies beyond," explains David Loyola, principal and design director at Gensler, who led the project design.
Located in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal, the 1,700sqm (18,300sqf) lounge has dramatic vaulted ceilings and views of the Hollywood Hills. "It's almost like a tree house," says Loyola. He wanted the lounge to feel authentically LA; nods to the city's architectural heritage are found in the trelliswork, the table lamps, the interior landscaping and the black-and-white photographs of Los Angeles that hang throughout the space. Most remarkably, passengers are given a taste of the city's enviable indoor-outdoor lifestyle (pictured below) with access to an open-air terrace that is complete with a bar, fire pits and water features.The concept of domestic spaces also figures strongly in the design of Cathay Pacific's newest lounge in Hong Kong. The Deck, which opened last March in Terminal 1, was designed by Studioilse – the London-based studio led by Ilse Crawford – and features a designated relaxation room with bespoke Solo chairs, as well as a central 'living room' with low-slung designer furniture, greenery, and natural materials such as bamboo and teak. According to Cathay Pacific, the overall feeling of the lounge is "of a domestic space, more like a living room than an airline lounge" (pictured below).
Furniture and lighting are supplied by noted brands such as Knoll, Vitsoe, Kalmar and e15. And the 828sqm (8,900sqf) lounge also includes The Terrace, an open-ceiling, L-shaped veranda that gives visitors sweeping panoramic views of the airport's northern runway, taxiways, and the terminal.
In some ways, designing an airport lounge is similar to other hospitality spaces such as hotel lobbies or restaurants, but since the foot traffic in airports is much heavier and renovations are rare, designers need to make quality and durability a priority
Having a variety of programs and spaces is crucial for lounge success, says Loyola, who has designed dozens of airline lounges throughout the Americas, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. This means offering a variety of seating environments, from relaxing lounge chairs to work tables, and various food options (both LAX's Star Alliance Lounge and Hong Kong's The Deck include dedicated noodle bars), as well as soothing amenities such as showers for freshening up.In some ways, designing an airport lounge is similar to other hospitality spaces such as hotel lobbies or restaurants, but since the foot traffic in airports is much heavier and renovations are rare, designers need to make quality and durability a priority. "People will be dragging their luggage through and there will be an impact on fabric," Loyola says. Despite its sleek appearance, the Star Alliance Lounge was guided by 'function before design', or as Gensler's design proposal expounds, "can take the knocks, not just look good".
The upside of working on airport lounges, Loyola says, is that clients are often willing to invest in quality. "Lounges are designed the for highest premium customer, so airlines want to get it right. Everything matters and that's refreshing as an architect, especially in an airport environment."