In the first of a series of TheDesignAir Studio Spotlights, we take a look at Viewport Studio, an award-winning multidisciplinary practice with a track record of more than 25 years of experience on projects completed internationally. 

Based out of London and Singapore, Viewport Studio comprises a team of architects and designers across a mix of disciplines. The name should be familiar, having designed a series of award–winning spaces, products and furniture that mix both innovation and rigorous attention to detail. Viewport Studio’s client base is diverse too, including both Virgin Galactic and Atlantic, Delta Air Lines through to Royal Selangor and The Goodwood Hotel Group. When it comes to product design, Viewport Studio’s Essential collection has been awarded the Dezeen Furniture Design of the Year 2022

The studio is currently working on the design and refurbishment of the 300-room Royal Garden Hotel in London, including the recently completed Origin Kensington restaurant; the design of all the front of house spaces for Wales Millennium Centre, including theatres, bars, restaurants, and shops; villas and interiors for Amaya, a mountain hotel resort in northern India.

Virgin Galactic Spaceport Interior

What is the starting point for something that has never been designed before? Virgin Galactic – the company launching commercial space flights for tourists – selected Viewport Studio to curate a combined customer and employee experience alongside a completely bespoke interior design for the public-facing spaces and the operations centre of Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert. Thanks to a long history of delivering award-winning design for the Virgin Group which stretches back nearly two decades gave the studio an in-depth understanding of their brand DNA. Our starting point was the location of the spaceport and its surrounding landscape. Our team stood on the runway at Spaceport America and stared out to the New Mexico desert which is a stark and beautiful place, rich in colour and texture. This inspiration became the main influence for the design work that followed.

The main zone of the interior – the Gaia Lounge – is the kitchen, dining, meeting and event area for the staff, the pilots and the family and friends of the passenger astronauts. Everybody gathers here to watch the astronauts step down the central walkway and board the spacecraft when it emerges from its hangar and then view the take off.

The building is designed so that it is dug into the landscape at one end and at the other has a fully glazed wall facing the desert and the runway. The astronauts’ journey takes them from the sparse elemental desert of New Mexico and then into the outer edges of the earth’s atmosphere.

“Our design for Virgin Galactic’s spaceport is centred on elevating the human journey”

– Gareth Southall, Viewport Studio

Viewport Studio’s brief was to integrate the astronaut experience alongside the requirements to be an operational workspace for the staff as well as to be a celebratory environment for the friends and family. The design is intended to express the excitement of the journey and specifically respond to its location but at the same time to be a serene, comfortable and reassuring space.

The Layout: everything is designed to look outwards in the same direction through the floor to ceiling windows onto the runway and the desert mountains beyond. There are a variety of spaces each with its own specifically seating formats to allow for different interactions, but at the same time designed to emphasise the space as a means of bringing people together. Additionally, the area is landscaped with different heights in order to create the best possible views for everybody: a rear platform encircles the area for viewing over the tables and sofas and a “mesa” in the corner is a raised area with window seating.

The Furniture: every item was designed in-house by Viewport Studio for the project from the enormous central barista island, to the 12m long banquette seat that runs across the space, with their deep criss-cross patterning in the upholstery. The furniture is designed specifically for comfort but at the same time, the striking way the large plywood banquettes appear to hover in the space creates a lightness of touch as well as portraying elements of flight. The low cradle sofas in the window areas reflect the contours of the sand dunes. The barista island is the heart of the space and is designed to reflect the desert strata of the eroded sandstone monuments with a large translucent onyx top that echoes the idea of a water oasis in the desert.

Virgin Atlantic 787 Interior

Following on from the success of Viewport Studio’s very first project with Virgin Atlantic A330 interiors, the team were asked to work on the new cabin interiors and bar for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There was a clear aim for the Upper Class bar – to create a genuine social hub. As with the carrier’s earlier projects, Viewport Studio angled the bar so that is greets passengers on boarding, and by allowing them to gather around it during the flight, the bar creates an entirely new dynamic for crew interaction.

The cantilevered bar with its sharp cutaway is clad in textured panels, emphasising the volumetric lightness of the aircraft entrance. The angled ceiling creates a subtle refraction of light into the space. Back milled solid surface panels form the end of the bar, housing changeable back lighting to suit the different atmospheres of which the bar is a central part. The bar stools, side perches and standing room beyond created a convivial destination for Upper Class passengers after take-off, while having an aesthetic that was decidedly futuristic and belonged in the sky.

“Viewport has a history in aviation design… Our multidisciplinary approach means we understand how design flows from ground to the sky and our heritage in aviation makes us a trusted partner. Travel is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, speak to us about how we can collaborate to craft your unique experience”,

Images courtesy of John Clark, Virgin Atlantic and Robin Zielinski

Posted by:Jonny Clark

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