Pushing Boundaries in Airport Hospitality: Designing a Seating Concept for Top Traveler Comfort

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Pushing boundaries can be one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for a designer. It’s easy to become reliant on what is existing and readily available in the marketplace, but it’s our job to use past experiences and industry knowledge to create new solutions in areas we see as voids in the realm of design, product, construction and beyond.

Our Populous aviation and product design teams have collaborated over the last two years with airport operators, carriers and vendors to meet the challenge of doing more within our means at airports around the country. Airports were once looked upon as a destination only visited when it meant a departure to another location – but today the airport terminal is being seen as more of a live experience, a next-generation destination where restaurants, retail and hotel destinations are competing with the five-star restaurant and boutique shopping districts found throughout the city. Commuters now look forward to arriving early to engage in this experience and all the airport has to offer.

As humans, we gravitate to and strive to be in environments that allow for unique and memorable experiences with people we love. Because of this, our reactions and opinions to design are often based on the materials, textures, spaces, details and furniture that we come into contact with and how they make us feel. Furthermore, our pleasant or unpleasant experiences with these elements create lasting impressions of a place. As designers, we are responsible for these lasting impressions which involve the execution and vision from the largest element of an airport down to the smallest of details, like a chair in the airport.

As written by my colleague Derrick Choi, Populous’ aviation and product design team developed a seating concept intended to maximize comfort, flexibility and productivity for the individual traveler called the FLIP seating concept.

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FLIP is a seating solution designed around a single module that can be rotated, flipped and recombined with other modules to create a range of seating configurations. The module is framed with a composite metal frame that provides the exoskeleton to support a high-performance seating mesh; resulting in a sturdy, yet highly flexible and comfortable seating experience. The mesh explores phase change material technologies that adapt to one’s body temperature – heating or cooling the user – providing comfort for every traveler’s habit.

The composite framing also functions as a channel for the electrical components of the storage and charging unit. Inspired by the remarkable versatility of a “magic cube” puzzle, two basic seating modules can be reorganized into numerous configurations; providing a wide range of lounging, working and playing options for all traveler types and needs.

Passenger Terminal World recently selected the product as the winner of its 2016 Design Challenge. As part of the competition, Dubai Airport Company intends to install prototypes of the first FLIP seating units in the newly completed Concourse D at Dubai International Airport.

At Populous, we have a unique ability to design hospitality environments in some of the world’s most memorable sports, civic, entertainment venues and now airports.

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Adam Stover is lead interior designer and director of product development at Populous. To continue the conversation or learn more, contact Adam.   

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