Let’s face it: Flying today is a far cry from the halcyon days when men in suits and women in frocks sauntered through space-age airports onto wide bodies with enough leg room to tango. That’s why modern airport lounges – those hushed islands of calm between the security checks and the cramped confines of coach class – are less luxuries than sanity savers for those who have access to them.
Nonetheless, many contemporary lounges have a cookie-cutter quality that makes it hard to distinguish Orly from Ottawa. But not all are nondescript. Here are three with strong design factors and a real sense of place.
Airport Lounge Innsbruck by Nina Mair Architecture + Design
Many airport lounges, if they have views at all, overlook jet bridges and taxiways. At Innsbruck Airport in Austria, local architect Nina Mair and her team had something a little more inspiring to put into focus: the Alps. Smartly, Mair made the mountain panorama visible from the space a key element of her design, framing it through floor-to-ceiling windows lined with Alfredo Häberli’s high-backed Take a Line for a Walk chairs for Moroso.
Views aside, the setting permeates the design. Throughout the lounge – which includes reading nooks, acoustically buffered work pods, a communal table and a kitchen/dining area – alpine crafts and motifs are juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings to create a harmonious whole. In the dining room, for instance, cozy Granny pendant lamps sport hand-knit Tyrolean-wool shades, providing a folksy contrast to the minimalist Halo ring lights that illuminate the rest of the lounge. (Both fixtures were designed by Mair: Halo in 2014 and Granny by Pudelskern, the design studio she led with two partners from 2006 to 2012).
In the kitchen, meanwhile, copper pots and utensils hang over a modern-rustic island, which features a rough-hewn trough sink outfitted with copper hardware.
An airport lounge, says Mair, “should provide guests with the perfect start to a pleasant journey.” Her version is just the ticket.
Atelier Relaxium by Aviator Denmark
According to Copenhagen Airport, more than 5,000 passengers use one of its lounges every day, many of them leisure travelers. To accommodate this growing demand, the airport enlisted Aviator Denmark, the multinational aviation services company, to come up with a new walk-in lounge. The result, Atelier Relaxium, is a pay-per-visit, public-access lounge with premium-lounge style.
Located across two levels in Terminal 2, Atelier Relaxium is furnished exclusively with Normann Copenhagen designs. Encompassing a rainbow of colours, the furnishings include red, yellow and orange Rope sofas, voluminous Bell lamps in matching tones and chrome-accented Form chairs in various shades of blue.
According to Normann Copenhagen, “passengers can sit down in the area that matches their mood,” installing themselves among warm, passionate colours if they want to socialize or cooler, more tranquil ones if they need to focus or rest. “This should remedy,” the company adds, “the feeling of stress that many people experience at the start of their journey.”
To that end, there is also a (bright red) bar.
Frankfurt Airport Quiet Room by Architekten v. Törne (AvT)
The Quiet Room that opened at Frankfurt Airport this past summer could be anywhere in the world, but it does reflect the very German penchant for calm and order in a tumultuous world.
A dedicated space where travelers can go to escape the hustle and bustle of the airport around them, it was based on an idea by interior architect Katharina Woll and executed by AvT, a Wiesbaden firm led by Gösta L. v. Törne. Located post-security in Terminal 1, the white room features an undulating golden ceiling illuminated by lamps that reflect light onto the floor and walls. Anchoring the space is a blocky oak bench on which users can sit to rest or meditate. Slender backrests protrude from the top of the seating.
Harry Gatterer, a trend researcher and futurologist who leads the Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute) in Frankfurt and Vienna, said in a brief released by the airport that quiet havens such as this are likely to become commonplace in public spaces, particularly in transport hubs. “In the 21st century, we are constantly bombarded by masses of information and bathed in the glow of screens with hardly a break,” he said. “The so-called information society is now reacting to this overkill with a countertrend: mindfulness.”
The Quiet Room is open to all passengers and is free to use.