The Schiphol chair test: Interview Ankie van der Niet

What really determines the interior of your home? It’s usually the chairs and couches, because these take up the most space. This applies to a pier as well. In the coming years, we will be upgrading the non-Schengen piers (D, E, F and G), which also means we will be installing new furniture. Project manager Ankie van der Niet explains how we at Schiphol ‘go shopping’ for new chairs and benches.

Test setup

At the end of 2015, as part of the Pier Upgrades project, we went in search of new chairs and benches for Schiphol. ‘We opened the European call for tenders with the design by the interior architect’, said Ankie. ‘Five suppliers provided a mock-up – a life-size test setup – of their chair or bench. These were exhibited in the WTC, enabling us to choose what we liked best. This process alone takes nine months, and even after that, you still don’t have a single piece of new furniture in your buildings.’ The real work only begins after selection the furniture supplier. Drawings have to be further developed, materials have to be tested and of course the actual chairs and benches have to be produced, too.

High demands

The new furniture should have a service life of at least ten years. Remember, we’re not talking about a couch that you flop onto in the evening after a hard day at work. Travellers sit on these items of furniture almost 24 hours a day. ‘That’s why we don’t just go to the local furniture megastore and grab a ready-to-use chair from the shelf,’ explained Ankie. ‘At Schiphol, we set high demands. After all, you don’t want a bench that will have worn-out patches after just a year, or that is difficult to detach from the floor, or with fabric that’s hard to keep clean.’ That means we require tailor-made solutions!

Testing 1, 2, 3

The furniture items are now installed in a test setup behind partitions at Pier G. A team of Schiphol staff, architects and suppliers are jointly assessing the chairs and benches. ‘Should we choose light or dark tones for the upholstery? Do we prefer cushions with round or angular corners? We look at everything in this test, from the quality of the stitching to the frame,’ said Ankie. Each decision also involves the question of whether the quality will still be good in ten years’ time. ‘If a certain type of fabric can be cleaned better, we’re more likely to select that one.’ Another important question concerns whether it is actually comfortable to sit on. ‘That’s a personal issue, of course. However, as a team, we will arrive at a shared verdict,’ said Ankie. ‘We’ll soon be providing more types of furniture than just the black chairs you see at the gate now. You’ll be able to set yourself down on the chair or bench of your choice.’