Friday, June 05, 2009

McBains Cooper Designs SkyTeam Heathrow Lounge

Construction consultancy McBains Cooper will help defy nature, gravity and conventional design in a prestigious airline lounge development and construction projects at London's Heathrow Airport. McBains Cooper project managed construction and helped bring to life the new SkyTeam lounge at Terminal 4. Designers specified 12 "living walls" covering 200 square metres of vertical surface, an oxygen bar and computer games area amongst other features.

SkyTeam is an alliance of ten major airlines and three associates, including Aeroflot, Air France, Continental, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Korean Airlines amongst others. "We have worked on no other airline lounge like it anywhere in the world". "The concept, design and execution of the living walls in particular should not be underestimated in terms of an achievement attained by the designers or engineers involved," said project manager Lindsay Melrose, Associate Director, McBains Cooper.

"We have taken a very exciting design created and managed by Brandimage - Desgrippes and Laga in Paris, and delivered the physical execution of it in the lounge - those familiar with SkyTeam branding will know that it is a ribbon- effect logo, and we constructed architecture which reflects that style; there are no straight lines in the new SkyTeam lounge.

"But what really stands out is that series of 'living walls' - vertical gardens which at first glance may appear to be a straightforward case of hanging plants on a vertical surface, but were in fact a big technical challenge: under closer inspection it is an ingenious method of growing plants directly out of the walls using a unique planting and irrigation process; there is no soil involved"".

"The wall has been designed and created by scientist, explorer and architect Patrick Blanc - his ideas are inspired by his exploration projects and discovery of new plant species, many of which live and grow on vertical soil-less rock faces". "He consequently invented an irrigation and feeding system which has provided startling results in more conventional locations".

"But the plants in the "vegetal" in the SkyTeam lounge also influence the atmosphere and ambiance of the area, working to help suppress noise, manage temperature and work as an air purification feature. "The furnishings and refreshment facilities are designed to address the toughest common denominators of air travel - preparation for a long flight, and arrival with jetlag. But, of course, not every visitor to the lounge will be on a long- haul journey, so there are immense benefits for every SkyTeam alliance member passenger," said Lindsay Melrose.

"The oxygen bar has been introduced to help passengers deal with jetlag on arrival, and there is a whole range of other facilities which will deliver both relaxation and stimulation in similar doses". "There is a wellness spa, unique designs of food and beverage bars, business areas, a VIP lounge within a lounge and subtly designed chaise longues to enable the occasional 'power nap'". The lounge is on two floors, with the first opening in June 2009, and the second due for launch in November 2009.

The McBains Cooper team was responsible for the project management, architectural implementation, mechanical and electrical consultancy, structural engineering, interior construction and cost management of the entire development". "Communication and co-ordination between McBains Cooper, SkyTeam and Brandimage has proven to be a massively positive platform - driving smooth co-ordination, and allowing ongoing fine-tuning and matching of concept with execution," said Lindsay Melrose.

"The success, speed and cost management of the project - on budget, on time and on brand - underlines the importance and influence of that collaboration and our own 'interdisciplinary' approach, in which our team work closely and without conflict, unlike multi-business contracts involving different organisations fighting to secure larger shares of a fixed budget, usually to the detriment of design, finished article and cost".

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