Cathay Pacific Taipei Lounge 15
Cathay’s new Taipei Lounge design by StudioIlse

In our exclusive interview with designer Ilse Crawford from StudioIlse, we reveal that the new London Heathrow Lounge will be the first redesigned lounge to feature both First Class and Business Class areas for passengers. The designer is the same creative force behind the new wave of Cathay Pacific lounges, including the Pier First Class Lounge and new lounges in Manila, Tokyo and Bangkok.

Unlike the previous incarnations of the lounge which catered for both First and Business passengers, including the newest to open in Taipei, this lounge will separate the two cabin classes. While Cathay Pacific are remaining tight lipped over the final look and feel, there are a few signs of what we can expect when it opens up in a few months time.

Cathay Haneda Lounge Review by TheDesignAir
Cathay Pacific’s Tokyo Haneda Lounge by StudioIlse

Thank you Ilse for taking the time to speak with us. How is it to be designing on home soil for Cathay Pacific?
“Although the studio is based in London, we work globally and our process stays the same, regardless if we are designing here or abroad, it begins with the human being. We centred our lounge concept for Cathay Pacific around the changing needs of the modern traveller. The aim was to create a lounge where the design, at every point in the experience, makes visitors feel good and that their wellbeing has been considered. What’s exciting is Cathay Pacific’s commitment to invest in the lounges at Heathrow and other airports, not just in their home hub in Hong Kong. It’s about the journey, anticipating the needs of the airline passenger and addressing them each step of the way, no matter where they fly from. On a personal level, I find myself travelling out of Heathrow a lot, so I’m happy the lounge is in London.”

Cathay Pacific Business Class Trip Report
The previous London Heathrow Lounge for Cathay Pacific 

What have you learned from the previous lounges?
“The feedback from the lounges so far has been really great. When we finish a project it is really just the start of its life and you always hope as a designer that it’s loved by the people who use it.

Given we’ve done quite a few we have had the chance to refine and improve each lounge. We have certainly learnt a great deal about the rules and regulations of building within an airport. It was a quite a process to find solutions that comply but without compromising on important details like the finish, texture or tactility. We also measured and remeasured to understand the optimum dimensions for allowing passengers to feel private in public space, looked at chair heights, charging sockets, lighting levels, hooks and storage. It’s the seemingly small details which add up to make or break the experience; we’ve done everything in our power to ensure the lounge feels intuitive.”

Cathay Pacific Taipei Lounge 2
Cathay Pacific’s Taipei Lounge

What can we expect in the new lounge?
“Offering first and business class spaces, Heathrow is the first of the outports to incorporate elements of both new lounge concepts. The spaces are domestic in atmosphere, with warm natural materials, layers of lighting and an abundance of plants to make passengers feel at home, to ground them, to breathe a sigh of relief. The Business class space features the signature noodle bar, solo chairs, bar and lounge areas as seen in the outports of Haneda, Bangkok, Taipei and Manila, with the addition of well appointed shower rooms to refresh and recharge between flights. First class passengers will also have access to an a la carte dining room, dedicated lounge space and self service pantry.”

The Dining Room in The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong

Who or what influences your work?
“When starting a project we look at the history, the context, the space, but most importantly we look to the people who will use it. I’m always watching, fascinated by how people interact with spaces, to understand how the design of a space can alter your physical and emotional experience. Spaces shape people, and dramatically affect how we behave and feel. I travel a lot so finally all that time spent in airports was put to good use, observing people and their behaviour. With this project, we saw the opportunity to ground people in an unnatural, often stressful environment, to slow them down and make them feel good, between the hassle of the airport and the disorientation of the plane.”

The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong

What challenges are there working in an airport environment?
“Airports can be cold, corporate and unwelcoming environments, a side effect we often see when spaces have to be extremely functional. The unmeasurable human values get lost, because decisions are dictated by the more measurable ones such as budgets, building regulations and schedules. Our challenge was design these back in, to make it feel warm, considered, generous and heartfelt. The lounge also has a very high footfall, so trying to create spaces that feel friendly but at the same time super robust and easy to operate was crucial. We didn’t want the lounge to feel transitory or institutional.”

Stay tuned to TheDesignAir for the very latest developments at Cathay Pacific. We’ll give you a first glimpse of the new London lounge as soon as the visuals are revealed.


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Posted by:Jonny Clark

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