Global Exchange, one of the world’s top three currency exchange operators, asked HEAD Architecture to design nine exchange facilities across Hong Kong International Airport’s two terminals, its Midfield Concourse and its SkyPier, a transit facility where inbound passengers can catch a ferry to nearby Macau without passing through Hong Kong immigration. Some facilities are located airside and others ‘landside’ to cover arriving and departing passengers. The kiosks ranged in size from small walk-up kiosks through to a large walk-in space covering more than 250sqft. Given the vast range of site sizes, clearly a one-design fits all solution was not going to work. So HEAD Architecture created nine designs individually tailored to each space.
Some stores had to be visible from an almost 360-degree perspective, attracting attention from escalators or floor level. Others, like the large arrivals space, had to face a one-way flow of people, attracting the attention of jetlagged travellers, many of whom would be new to the airport and unaware of their surroundings.
The first challenge HEAD Architecture faced in this project was creating a distinctive brand identity which shared common elements of the company’s stores elsewhere in the world, yet delivered a distinctly “Hong Kong” visual appeal and experience. The stores had to be recognisable and memorable.
The client’s brief was also to make the stores friendly and welcoming - and vastly more experiential than many traditional exchange counters which are often little more than boxes with counters and glass screens separating customers from staff.
The stores also had to be sympathetic to the overall modern and sophisticated aesthetic of Hong Kong International Airport.
HEAD Architecture adopted a dramatic and iconic angular motif for the counter face of each store space, which is memorable but also relaxed and friendly. The counter surfaces are clean and light coloured with an easily maintained solid surface material, made of Corian, with soft seamless countertops and edges and a subtle blue back light to the edges. Indented into the counters are notepad devices giving customers a user-friendly interface showing exchange rates and details of their transactions as they are processed, without them having to squint at small screens, thermal paper printouts or hand-held calculators.
Behind most of the counters are LED video walls that feature moving imagery and seasonal promotions, creating a balance between the dramatic and the purely informational. The LED walls show video that is adaptable and flexible to the requirements and aesthetics of the respective locations. Moving text (including the word ‘exchange’ in multiples languages) and destination images mix with promotions. Where the space cannot accommodate an LED wall, a mural of Hong Kong has been painted in subtle colours complementary to the Global Exchange’s brand colour palette.
In the airport’s “meet and greet” location, HEAD Architecture created a Hong Kong motif on walls and in a glass feature. In some spaces, pillars are wrapped in LED panels showing dramatic imagery of the Hong Kong skyline, and iconic tourist scenes from the city. This extends the ‘We Love Hong Kong” theme adopted by the company to mark its debut in the market.
Altogether, these elements combine to create a unique experience for customers that is both memorable and identifiably Hong Kong.
For the floors, the design team chose to match the tiling of the airport to create a seamless flow between the exchange space and the broader airport space. Tiles were sourced and cut to suit the space and give the impression the store was “parked” on the site. The combined floor and ceiling approach ensured the eye-catching retail spaces stand out even more, drawing the eye - and customers - to the counters and screens.