04-06-2007

Sunken lounge. Heathrow (London). Softroom. 2006

Softroom,

London,

Bar,

The exclusive Virgin Atlantic Airlines lounge at London's Heathrow Airport is the product of a partnership between the Virgin Atlantic In-House Design Team and Softroom architecture.



Sunken lounge. Heathrow (London). Softroom. 2006 The lounge space is designed and built to revolutionise the experience of travelling, and above all the time passengers spend in the airport waiting for flights. The furnishings and the space that contains and surrounds them are designed as a single unit; the sunken seats look as if they have been cut into the form of the floor.
The 2500 square metre Sunken Lounge is completely different from a conventional waiting room. Slabs of black American walnut are cut and set together to form sinuous shapes with horizontal ventilation openings. The trendy bar is surrounded by a space that can comfortably seat 30-40 passengers. The lounge's composition is designed to look like a series of mini-living rooms, with a characteristic horseshoe shape that manages to create a cosy atmosphere in spite of the room's large size.
The material is the same black American walnut as the raised floor; the superimposed, moulded profiles of the furnishings create gently rolling shapes. Inside these shells are big sofas, padded and covered with leather. On the back of the sofas a series of stainless steel plates support built-in elements of décor such as flower pots, magazine holders and screens.
The arms of the chairs can be turned over to reveal sockets and connections for laptop computers, and the tables beside them can be used for eating.
The furniture also conceals the air conditioning system.
In the design of the lounge the primary focus was on ergonomics, with drawings, CAD studies, models and full-scale prototypes tested by large numbers of potential users. The ceiling reproduces the curvaceous forms of the floor and the seats, while at the same time alluding to the image of clouds floating across the sky.
This is made possible by the installation of the air conditioning system below, doing away with the oppressive presence of dividing walls and suspended grids normally found in airports. The system definitely improves the image of the Clubhouse, now one of the most advanced facilities of its kind.

Laura Della Badia

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