Once snap-worthy, San Francisco-Oakland International Airport’s requisite “yoga studio” is an example of the growing presence of relaxing programs within airports, bus and train terminals. Though many transportation hubs now account for a traveler’s need for some personal zen, many (including the closet-like “studio” at SFO) have lacked architectural inspiration. While esteemed architects have often been at the forefront of the world’s latest transportation design projects, the scale of the meditative room hasn’t always been a top priority.
Though the rooms in this collection vary in program, they are all the product of smaller-scale architectural intervention within a much larger airport complex. They attempt to bring thoughtful design down to the scale of one’s (very rare but very precious) personal space at the airport. Amongst the bustle and chaos familiar to every jet setter, these seven special spaces within international airports offer reprieve from the stress of traveling, suited to the different ways in which travelers relax. For employees and passengers alike, the following areas provide atypical airport comfort for eating, sleeping, praying and meeting while on the go.
Chapel in Riga International Airport’s North Terminal by ARHIS, Rīga, Latvia
Designed by ARHIS, this chapel in Latvia strays far from the expected aesthetic palette at an airport. The bright and airy room with natural materials and gentle silhouettes is quiet in appearance and perfectly suited to allow passengers a peaceful moment alone with their thoughts.
SLEEPBOX by Arch Group is the dreamy solution to every traveler’s worst nightmare. Though we’ll all keep our fingers crossed that we never have to use it, this “small mobile compartment” offers a sleeping solution for the unlucky tourist that has to spend a night at the airport. The compartments come in varying sizes to accommodate 1–3 beds and are paid for by the hour. The minimal design manages to provide discreet niches to store notebooks, luggage, provides a touchscreen television, safe deposit box, reading lamps and charging stations.
Due to recent updates to the airport’s circulation planning, the area outside Terminal 1 of Zurich’s International Airport had become a significant threshold space. As the main point of entry for incoming foreigners to Switzerland, this “buffer zone” was intended to convey a bold welcome, whilst incorporating symbolic Swiss notes. The project, completed by dag ag, is an elemental representation of the Swiss landscape, including a water wall that showcases the country’s prime resource and aesthetic. The architects also included lava stone and granite, gentle lighting and organic patterning to further encapsulate Switzerland’s natural beauty.
For Mumbai’s international airport, Matteograssi furnished 10,000 seats for meeting rooms. Two types — the chaise lounge and the low backrest variant — were placed skillfully throughout the terminal’s meeting area. Built of steel and leather, these seats convey ease and comfort and express the luxurious sentiment of travel that is too often forgone nowadays.
Café Vue at Melbourne Airport intends to embody a hidden green enclave encased by the masses of travelers. Architects at Elenberg Fraser Architecture drew inspiration from those French gardens often hosting social functions, places of chance encounter and some opulence. The design of the cafe is inclusive of diverse ornamentation — art, plants and decorative elements, to name a few — and the separate dining areas are a nod to the sequential dining spaces at Versailles.
A space never visited by passengers, this project by Zechner & Zechner was to design a new air traffic control tower and service building for the fire brigade. The architecture departs from the standard forms for these programs and instead offers the valued safety employees multiple levels and separate spaces to work within. Light pours through slender windows, allowing views of the runways for even those servicemen not on-duty.
Though the Galaxy Space Lounge at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow certainly presents a high-flying vibe, its relaxed decor, full service concierge and boundless amenities may make a traveler forget they’re in an airport waiting area. Designed for in-between hours at the airport, the program was designed by AS+P to join the diverse desires of travelers — sleep, food, cleanliness, nicotine and so on — under a singular schema. The ambient rear-lit lighting and modular sectioning permits the red-eyed commuter a space to delineate their “personal bubble.”