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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on September 18, 2012

Prophecies of Utopia

Two design companies present their visions of the airport relaxation area of the future, which aim to take passengers to their ultimate Nirvana.

Vision 1 :Tablets, detox and panorama, by Sheridan & Co’s senior creative designer, Alex Stothard.

The key to relaxing airside is to be unburdened – to have the weights of travelling removed, to temporarily be freed from encumbrances. Our relaxation area is designed to take away the burdens, which hang heavy on passengers. One by one, we strip away the concerns.

First, travellers are expected. That makes the welcome warmer and  more personal. After walking in, carry-on luggage that is not required during the stay is safely and securely stowed. It can even be dropped into a  delivery system to the gate. The idea is for travellers to be relatively hands-free so that they are not always thinking about whether an item  has been mislaid.

Passengers are then handed a digital tablet that has  been be pre-populated with a variety of personalised  information and entertainment. Every tablet has a distinct cover,  so each person knows which one has been assigned to them.

Travellers can head to the detox bar, pull up a comfy  chair at a table, stretch out in a full-length relaxation chair or  kick off their shoes and sit back on the sunken sofas, which  should particularly attract groups of friends and families. There  are scatter cushions in a variety of textiles and colours for them  to rest on.

Back to the tablet. Healthy, energising and detoxing drinks, fruit and snacks can be ordered with the tablet and it will be served to passengers at their location (the staff simply track the tablet). Duty-free and other airside shopping can be bought with the tablet and will be waiting at the flight’s gate.

The tablet is an integrated part of the journey. If passengers are in transit, the tablet will know what they watched on the first flight and be ready to show the end of the film that was cut short due to landing.

Individuals can check the weather at their destination and choose from the airline’s menu of food and drinks or listen to the carefully personalised music or news selection. The tablet also suggests when the flight is ready for boarding and for a more urgent reminder, lounge staff are alerted.

If passengers have been travelling for many hours  and need to freshen up, there is a powder area in which to wash and apply make-up, and even use some of the complimentary luxury mineral and vitamin-infused toiletries.

There are also various pods for people to use in different ways. Business travellers that have work to do may want to use one of the pods – from fully private, fully enclosed to semi-private – to catch up on emails, phone calls and work in peace and quiet.

Renting privacy is a growing trend and the lounge  caters for that desire. The fully private pods can be pre-booked in half hour slots or, for longer. Inside it is calm enough to take a nap, make private calls, and generally freshen up.

Many of the walls have integrated display screens, which show a gently evolving panorama of beautiful imagery. It is possible to influence what is shown. For instance, if passengers are going away on a diving holiday in the Maldives, the lounge has amazing underwater photography from the Indian Ocean that can be requested and watched on a screen eight feet high.

Or it might be a beach, or a mountain, or a wildlife reservation – a visual travel guide to the destination. Some of the display walls are touch sensitive with painting apps and games that use touch, colour and shape to create enchanting images, that can be played with.

The lounge uses natural, organic materials to lure  the brain away from the polymers of the industrial.  Wood flooring feels warm and calming under foot. A creamy white silver birch offers an elegant, naturalistic treat for  the eye.

Plants abound, their green hues most evident behind the bar. The flora’s oxygenating properties project a ‘feel good’ factor. The lighting is subtle, suggesting dawn in the early hours, daylight and then dusk. The colours are warm, with no harshness to the hues.

Passengers should walk out the lounge in a different physical and mental frame to how they went in, cleansed of the stress and grime of the day, with a clearer head, in better spirits and feeling a little more blessed.

Vision 2: Tri-zone pathway to enlightenment by CircleSquare’s founding partner and creative director Philip Handley.

The late architect Philip Johnson said: “All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space”.

Looking at most modern-day airports, one could easily wonder why so many designers and architects have decided to ignore this simple statement.

Airports are stressful places. Experts tend to qualify stress as being either physiological or psychological, with the causes of stress being either external or internal. But we have identified three ‘zones’ that impact on an individual’s stress levels.

The first zone is represented by the world at large. In the instance  of travel, it is determined by factors such as the weather at the destination, transfer from the airport to the hotel, whether luggage  may be lost and so forth.

The second zone is represented by the immediate surroundings.  For example, what are the noise levels like? Is it too crowded or  too hot or too cold? Can travellers find what they are looking for when shopping or looking for something to eat and can they find a seat  to rest in?

The third zone is internal. Are passengers tired or dehydrated, sweating or shivering? Do they feel unbalanced and disorientated, and are they frustrated or nervous or even afraid?

These are the three zones that need to be addressed in order to tackle stress and offer a relaxing environment to travellers, and these are the zones that we address when we consider the travellers’ path through our ideal relaxation area.

When travellers enter our relaxation area, they walk through a corridor that immediately starts scanning them, determining their heart rate, fluid levels, stress levels and identity to produce a profile. When they reach the welcome they are greeted by a hostess who already has a good idea of what might be needed.

The initial step is to address the first, global stress zone. The hostess will do that by confirming hotel reservations to the passengers and checking the weather at their destination.

A transfer from the airport to the hotel will also be arranged and their wardrobe prepared. She will also inform them that their luggage has been delivered to their plane and is about to be loaded, and that a spa treatment has been booked for their arrival.

Then the hostess will start addressing the second, environmental stress zone by suggesting that travellers make their way to the bar where cocktails are being prepared with their favourite spirit and where they will be able to socialise. Or, perhaps they prefer to head over to the spa area and have a massage or lounge in one of the reclining chairs.

Maybe they will want to take advantage of the tailored personal shopping/concierge service that can arrange for gifts to be selected, bought, wrapped and sent to friends and loved ones.

Or, finally, they can enter one of the special relaxation pods available. This is where the third, personal stress zone is tackled.  The traveller enters a pod that has been pre-programmed to respond  to their specific needs in terms of stress relief, the air will be saturated with elements that will balance their fluid levels, making sure they are hydrated.

It will provide them with music or quiet, visual stimulation or darkness and a range of options that are all voice-controlled and adaptable to their requirements.

The pod is an environment where individuals will be able to completely relax, choose the activity they want (sleep, watch a movie, play interactive games or meditate) all the while knowing that everything has been taken care of.

And when the time to leave comes, travellers will receive a  boost through oxygen pumped in the pod that will reinvigorate  them and send them on their way fresh and ready to face the  journey ahead.

Our vision for the ultimate relaxation area at the airport is one where all three zones of stress can be address successively so that travellers can truly let go and relax.

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