The lounges continue this relevance and domesticity as soft flowing forms, though what makes them surprising is their very existence in an airport. These are sumptuous islands of repose. Large enough for a family to cluster, separate enough for travel weary strangers to keep their distance, they are also sympathetically comfortable to the inevitability of missed flights, delays and airport layovers.
“It was designed first of all in response to the way that people actually sit: so teenagers flop and lie and disregard most things, older people tend to sit and read or maybe use their laptop or something, kids might be rolling down the inclined ends of the furniture or jumping over the top of them or whatever. So, in our design proposition for that furniture, we talked about reflecting human activity, rather than the sterile airport waiting room rows of seats that you normally get,” says Grose. As a visual device, the scale and character of the organic forms provides a welcome respite to the orthogonal geometry of the rest of the building. The result is a composed contrast between the organic elements and the timber and steel. In some ways, the lounges assume the role of a human figure in a landscape painting, in that they contextualise the macro and micro concurrently without denying the human need to relate to both the awe of one and familiarity of the other.
The humanness of the building is palpably New Zealand in nature: strong, warm, proud, able… yet, it is far less clichéd than that. Specifically, it is regional and in being so it is reflective of a culture with different values and criteria for quality than a metropolitan society: “I think the robustness and the straightforwardness, and especially the utilitarian character of it, resonate… the building has a certain modesty about it, which resonates with people who are implicitly modest.” Manifest within a simple material palette of cement, wood, steel and wool in their appropriate natural tones, there is a modesty of sorts.
“People won’t recognise the abstract reference to the literal idea, but the form of the building will resonate with people about air travel and small-scale air travel,” James Grose
On the other hand, it is unabashedly an event of magnitude. Driving this aspect home is the façade as seen from the ground arrival. Where most airport entrances are a matter of haste driven channelling, where the exterior is bypassed, BVN elected to orchestrate a sense of arrival. Comprising a large rectangular arch over another, the effect, while not monumental or daunting, is to slow the visitor by acknowledging the building, the arrival and the pending travel. It also prepares the traveller for the experience of the interior by setting the stage. From the airside, the experience is similarly stage-managed. Inbound passengers are met by a dark charcoal expanse in the form of the wing tips of the particular aircraft used in the region. This is split by a meeting window angled to reference the side of an aeroplane wing. Subtle, wry and with the same restrained use of referents as the interior. “People won’t recognise the abstract reference to the literal idea, but the form of the building will resonate with people about air travel and small-scale air travel,” says Grose.
He is right. The brilliance of this project lies in the reassertion of flying as a thrilling event. It has the wide-eyed awe of a first-time traveller, rather than the jaded cringeworthy whine of long haul complaint. It is beautiful, conceptually brilliant, masterfully executed, an exemplar of New Zealand-ness and it says, ‘Wow, we are going to fly, isn’t that neat?’, and it is! ￼
Article by James Fergus for (inside) Interior Design Review.
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