Interview Krijn Hombrink: Departure Lounge 1: Everyone on cloud nine

A space with living trees, shops, workspaces and easy chairs; light effects that show you where to go; a total reorganisation of the existing 13,000 square metres, plus no less than 6,000 square metres of ground area – these are just some of the extraordinary aspects of the (almost) final new design of Departure Lounge 1.

‘The current departure lounge is too small for the number of passengers who pass through it every day,’ Project Leader Krijn Hombrink explains. ‘At busy times you get bad bottlenecks, especially where passenger flows intersect. The interior is outdated, too; it’s due for a reorganisation.’

He goes on, ‘Take the area at the start of Pier C, for instance, with hospitality, seating areas and KLM transfer desks and P3: one of the most attractive parts of the terminal. It has high ceilings and you get a great view, but right now it’s so cluttered. That’s a missed opportunity, at the very least.’

Passenger experience

Because Schiphol is keen to improve the passenger experience as well as the quality and safety of Departure Lounge 1, the airport has brought in both in-house architects, Benthem Crouwel Architecten and NACO (BCN), and an interior design architect, Zenber Architecten. Their brief is to evoke a sense of tranquillity and openness, but also to make sure it’s ‘enjoyable’.

Enjoyable? ‘Everything about the new design is focused on the passenger experience. After the stress of going through the security filter, passengers arrive in the lounge: a place for shopping, work and relaxation. It’s important to us that this part of the airport should offer comfort, peace and space. That said, it also has to provide positive stimulation. Those things form the passengers’ perception of quality.’

Dividing the flow

So what will change? ‘The most striking functional change is that we are splitting the ‘main flow’ into two separate passenger flows: one landside, for the departure flow, and one airside, for people who are arriving or booking a transfer.

The intersecting main flow can now be divided, because the new lounge will be 6,000 square metres bigger. The major additions are the office area, which is currently largely occupied by the KLM crew centre (roughly 4,000 square metres) and a new landside annexe, Cockpitplein, at the end of the lounge in the direction of Piers B and C (roughly 1,800 square metres).

This is what I see as the biggest improvement in quality: a doubling of the main flow. Both flow areas will be 12 metres wide.’

Land, air and clouds

‘Then we asked an interior design architect: how would you translate that into a new design? Zenber Architecten came up with the idea of a zone for air, land and clouds, augmented by colours, shapes and light. The landside flow area will be decorated in warm colours and feature a long, sloping wooden wall with recesses for the shop fronts. That creates a tranquil, open atmosphere.

The airside flow area will be mainly coloured in shades of blue, and it is as open as possible with lots of daylight and a view of the aircraft. In this area, the closed-in shops have made way for seating and hospitality venues, so you can always maintain contact with the outdoors. It has a much more open and airy character.’

Eye-catcher: the Cloud

Another element the architects are playing with is light. A real eye-catcher in the new design, in Krijn’s view, is the wavy white shape where the passenger flows divide. ‘In the design blueprints, this central zone is called “the Cloud”. Between the air(side) and the land(side), there are clouds.

To create the walls of this area, a creative light design was proposed that uses LED lighting behind a translucent frontage. Not only does it make for a lovely light effect, but it also means we can help passengers find their way with flowing patterns and variable brightness in the lights.’

Lush greenery

Not content with air, land and cloud effects and all kinds of light, there must of course also be living trees and other greenery in this space, just like elsewhere at Schiphol. ‘Passengers have let us know that they really like having some greenery around them. It gives them a sense of comfort and peace. And there will also be many more varied types of seating, so passengers will soon be spoiled for choice.’

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Reducing CO2 and saving energy

And finally: what features will be added behind the scenes? ‘Sustainability is a priority for Schiphol. You can see that in the new design for Departure Lounge 1. For example, to keep the lounge at a pleasant temperature for passengers we are constantly pumping pre-warmed or cooled air into the space.

Together with our systems adviser Halmos, we decided to completely replace the old system with the most cutting-edge, energy-efficient systems, and to install them on the roof of the terminal.’

Even the upholstery in the seating areas is sustainable: ‘We’ve used natural felt and recycled leather, materials with a low CO2 footprint. The seats are easy to dismantle, too, so when the upholstery gets worn we’ll only have to replace that part.’

Design enhances function

So is Krijn happy with the new design? ‘When you find out you’ve got 20,000 square metres to fill you might think “Wow, that’s a lot!”, but when you consider everything that’s got to happen within that surface area you could easily add another 20,000. That said, we’ve done a good job of giving all the different functions within Departure Lounge 1 a new home, while at the same time creating more tranquillity and more space.

The new design’s shapes and lighting effects also help the passengers get to where they need to be, in a natural way. For me, everything fell into place at the moment when the interior design and light architect revealed the light design for the Cloud: the “look & feel”, the colour, the form and the light all enhance the function of the space.’

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