Rimowa at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne.... and already thinking about Barcelona....
March 29th, 2016 by smow

As more loyal readers will be aware, we are firmly of the opinion that increasing digital technology must be employed, autocratically if necessary, to reduce our daily need for and on paper; there are so many examples of unnecessary paper use, of situations where digital technology provides or could provide a more than suitable alternative.

Those same readers will also be aware that we are extremely uneasy about any developments which extend society’s dependency on smartphones and tablets, for the very obvious reasons that the more we depend on such, the more we risk creating a new type of poverty, new “class” boundaries and also new forms of control, monitoring and suppression.

Its a tightrope, but as Philippe Petit has regularly proved, a tightrope needn’t be a hindrance. And can indeed be a tool to creative freedom.

At Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne German luggage manufacturer Rimowa presented a new digital luggage labelling solution which in context of a paperless future very much appealed to us.

According to Rimowa their Electronic Tag is the first digital luggage check-in solution and means that after having checked in online for your flight, and received your electronic boarding card, you can then “check in” your luggage, the label being sent via Bluetooth to your suitcase where it is displayed on a small screen.

A very elegant, effortless and eminently sensible solution, what particularly appeals to us is the fact that the developers have decided to keep the visual design of the “classic” luggage label. There was no need to, important for the airports and airlines are alone the bar codes and the three letter airport codes, Rimowa could have created a new layout for the digital label. Didn’t. Which is very pleasing because nothing says “flying” quite like the green stripes and solid blocks of a luggage label. And we’ve lost enough of the charm, mystique and luxury of flying without having to bid adieu to such simple yet satisfying visual charms.

Currently only available in Rimowa suitcases we suspect that the technology will quickly spread, largely because we suspect that airlines and airports will encourage, or perhaps better put force, uptake of such: pre-labelled bags save costs in terms of printing labels, save costs in terms of staff, while the digital technology also allows for new, less voluminous, less formal, baggage drop facilities, and thus not only savings in terms of infrastructure but also offering the possibility of an improved customer service experience and freeing up space for retail and catering.

The new technology won’t replace the analogue completely, there will always be the likes of us who turn up at airports with a rucksack; but we can definitely foresee a future where such technology is standard for a majority of travellers. And eventually where RFID or similar chips are built into luggage, which will of course be a sad day as then the luggage label design will finally have boarded the long, one way flight to Retirement City.

More information on the Rimowa Electronic Tag can be found at www.rimowa-electronictag.com

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag,on and off.

Rimowa Electronic Tag. On and off.

Rimowa at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne.... and already thinking about Barcelona....

Rimowa at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne…. and already thinking about Barcelona….

Posted in Airport design, Design Tourism Tagged with: , , ,

Cloverleaf modular sofa system by Verner Panton through Verpan, and distributed to airports via Vitra, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne
March 21st, 2016 by smow

If the Light + Building trade fair in Frankfurt is home to exhibitors the majority of us have never heard of, Passenger Terminal Expo as Europe’s leading trade fair for airport infrastructure is home to exhibitors you never knew you were aware of: the developers of airport signage systems, for example, or manufacturers of airport security gates, baggage carousels, airline ticketing systems or self-check in terminals, and of course that sweet female voice who informs you that your gate has changed, boarding is now commencing to a destination far more exotic than yours, or that boarding is closing on your flight, you are the last passenger and are holding everything up. And two gates further a flight is boarding to a destination far more exotic than yours.

A trade fair so itinerant it would long have achieved frequent flyer status, each year sees Passenger Terminal Expo staged in a different city, the 2016 edition was hosted by Cologne.

Vitra at Passenger Terminal Expo Cologne 2016

Vitra at Passenger Terminal Expo Cologne 2016

In addition to all those publicly anonymous companies who help make airports tick, Passenger Terminal Expo also attracts one or the other more familiar exhibitor, including the Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra in the form of their dedicated Airport Division.

When we spoke with Vitra Airport Division CEO Pascal Berberat ahead of Passenger Terminal Expo 2012 he told us that part of the reason why Vitra established a specialised airport division is the cultural uniformity of airports; whereas requirements for domestic and office furnishings vary geographically, airport’s demands are generally global, and thus it makes sense for a company such as Vitra to have one central airport division.

Whereas Vitra’s airport portfolio has until now featured a combination of designs from the company’s wider programmes, including, for example, the Eames plastic chairs or designs by Maarten van Severen, and specially developed projects such as Airline by Sir Norman Foster or the Meda Gate family by Alberto Meda, in Cologne Vitra are presenting with Verner Panton’s Cloverleaf Sofa from Verpan a new string to their bow, namely a co-operation with another manufacturer.

The cooperation to market the Cloverleaf is limited to the airport sector alone, is however a decision which given the scope of the Vitra portfolio, raises the obvious question, why?

“We want to offer as wide a spectrum of solutions as possible”, explains Pascal Berberat, “and in that regard are open to co-operations with other firms, when they offer high-quality products which meet our standards. Formally the Cloverleaf offers an alternative to the stiff, linear geometry of the benches which currently dominate airport seating concepts, and with Flower by SANAA we already have a product which has a very similar organic form and which nicely compliments the Cloverleaf. And naturally there is also a strong connection between Verner Panton and Vitra”

Which shouldn’t be understood that benches will be vanishing from our airports, far less from the Vitra programme; much more that we can expect ever more softer, organic forms of seating in our airports as alternatives and contrast to the familiar benches.

And for us Vitra’s cooperation with Verpan makes perfect sense. Developed by Verner Panton for his 1970 Visiona 2 exhibition in Cologne the Cloverleaf is a modular system, and as such offers a great degree of flexibility, but more importantly is an exiting system, and as any fool know, why create what exists? Create new, and if something is available which meets your requirements, use it. It’s economic and environmental sense in practice.

Not linear. Cloverleaf modular sofa concept by Verner Panton through Verpan, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Not linear. The Cloverleaf modular sofa concept by Verner Panton through Verpan, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

That benches are going to remain the staple of airport seating for the immediate future can be seen on the stands of all the furniture manufacturers represented at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016, featuring as they do some 90% bench systems.

And in many respects the bench is the logical solution for airport seating. All systems available are modular, the airports being free to combine seats, tables or loungers as required for a given area, and should one element become damaged it can be simply exchanged.

Vitra’s own experience with benched public seating systems dates back to the 1960s and the Eames’ Tandem system, a system which is still in the company’s portfolio and which stood, in an old-skool fibre glass A shell version, outside a small regional airport we were previously forced to use. And the sight of which always softened the blow of having to be there.

Although presenting no new bench concepts per se at Passenger Terminal Cologne Vitra are presenting a new addition to their bench programme: the HAL bench featuring, unsurprisingly, the HAL seat shell by Jasper Morrison.

Intended primarily as a solution for locations where space is at a premium, such as, for example, smaller regional airports, in comparison to the majority of other airport benches the HAL bench is leaner, slender, a more compact, less voluminous affair which exudes an uncomplicated elegance. And is also a very neat example of the flexibility inherent in a well designed product –  and yes we are assuming here that the HAL shell is the product, just as the Eames’ shell is the product – to which a series of interchangeable bases can be attached, namely the possibility to employ one seating family throughout an airport; something which has less to do with the optical unity an interior designer may strive for and much more with the practicality of being able to switch furniture around should the need arise. The great joy however for us of the HAL bench is less such traditional considerations about furniture design and functionality and much more that it has no armrests; armrests on airport chairs being as everyone knows one of life’s great evils.

Yes we do understand, and grudgingly accept, the argument that airports don’t want people lying down on benches as it plays havoc with their seating capacity calculations.


Still evil.

A bench composed of HAL seat shells by Jasper Morrison for Vitra, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

A bench composed of HAL seat shells by Jasper Morrison for Vitra, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

In our previous Interview with Pascal Berberat he compared airports to small cities, and viewed in that context it is easy to understand why a company such as Vitra would be interested in a market such as airports. On the one hand the depth and breadth of their portfolio means they can supply seating not only for public waiting areas, but for all sectors of an airport from security and duty-free over lounges, bars and cafeterias and on to air traffic control; and because much of that seating comes from a portfolio of products available for every home and office many passengers will recognise the designs and thus feel themselves more comfortable in the sterile, high-security environment that is a contemporary airport. In addition the inherent systems thinking and research into questions such as ergonomics or materials which underlies much of the Vitra product portfolio means they can bridge the divide between the demands on the side of the passenger for comfort and those of the airport operator or airline for flexibility and durability. Function, lest we forget, always being a matter of perspective.

As such the transfer of the Vitra product range from domestic or office environments to the multi-faceted context of an airport is relatively straight forward; something observant travellers will be able to identify when passing through airports as varied as Munich, Doha, Heathrow, Delhi or Eindhoven. Or indeed the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo Station in London. What is true for airports being just as applicable for train stations or ferry terminals. Or shopping centres, council offices, doctors waiting rooms, etc, etc, etc

Recent years have seen, aside from a few principled conscientious objectors such as Berlin, a global increase in the number of airports and the provision of airport capacities, a situation which Pascal Berberat doesn’t expect to change in the near future.

“The world is getting smaller, the demand for mobility is increasing and flying is no longer the luxury it once was, and I am convinced that in the coming years such will continue to increase. And when more is flown, we will need ever more infrastructure, and that means for all more airports”

Airports featuring furnishings by a company you may have heard of, technology by firms whose name you will never know, and which are home to a woman who’s voice is so sweet she could make an approaching apocalypse sound a little less threatening, “Four Horsemen Airlines are happy to announce boarding of flight REV618 to Tribulation…….”

A few impressions from Vitra at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne

Posted in Airport design, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Passenger Terminal Expo, Producer, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Full house in teh smowroom for teh Leipzig Buchmesse readings
January 5th, 2011 by smow

While critics denounce such as an easy and obvious way to generate content – for us reviewing the past year is an important step in planning our activities for the coming year: where to go, who to talk to, what to sit on and, just as importantly, what to ignore or give up.

The only real problem for us is that in preparing such we realise just how much material we haven’t had the chance to use – and so receive an impression of how much more material we will acquire in the coming year.


Reading Table by Uli Budde @ Designers Fair 2010 Cologne

Reading Table by Uli Budde @ Designers Fair 2010 Cologne

The year started, as ever, with IMM and Designers Fair in Cologne. Aside from the opportunity to roll out a few anti-carnival gags the trip introduced us to some wonderful new products/designers, specifically; Uli Budde, Christian Lessing, Martin Neuhaus, Alexander Gufler, maigrau, Tim Baute etc, etc, etc…

A further highlight was the introduction of Herbert Hirche’s Interbau 57 armchair through Richard Lampert.

Negative was the lack of innovation and – if we’re honest – quality on display at IMM. For Germany’s most important furniture trade fair it just simply wasn’t good enough.

Let’s see what IMM 2011 brings.

In February we were then on much safer ground with the opening of the VitraHaus on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein and a visit to the MoormannHaus in Aschau in Chiemgau.

Moormann Haus, Aschau in Chiemgau

Moormann Haus, Aschau in Chiemgau

Aside from the way the VitraHaus majestically appears before you, for us the real joy is the decision to include “non-Vitra” items in the displays – very much in the spirit of Charles and Ray Eames‘ “Collage” principle of interior design.

If we did have one wish for 2011 it would be that rather than only including established designers, that Vitra include one or the other design from a young designer or two in the VitraHaus exhibition space.

VitraHaus is big enough to give young talent a chance.

While the MoormannHaus is every bit as spectacular a piece of architecture as Vitra’s, the real highlight of the trip to Aschau was Berge – the Moormann auberge

Much more than a delightful base for a trip to the Bavarian Alps – Berge is much more a wonderful introduction to the Moormann philosophy.

In March (smow)airport systems premiered their range of USM Haller based airport solutions at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2010 in Brussels. Created in cooperation with USM Haller , (smow) airport systems have developed a range of solutions for both operative, Lounge and Retail areas of airports – solutions that were very well received by the PTE visitors.

The company name and structure may have changed since PTE 2010 but we will be at PTE 2011 in Copenhagen to both follow the development of the project as well as to report on other developments in airport / public area furniture world.

Full house in teh smowroom for teh Leipzig Buchmesse readings

Full house in the (smow)room for the Leipzig Buchmesse readings

Back in Leipzig March is Buchmesse and March 2010 saw the most successful series of readings ever in the (smow)room in Burgplatz.


Starting with Grillsaison from Philipp Kohlhöfer and then moving on over “New voices from Switzerland” to “Meine Frau will einen Garten” by Gerhard Matzig the three readings provided three very different if equally enjoyable experiences.

More so in 2011 !

Posted in Airport design, Buchmesse, designers fair, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Passenger Terminal Expo, Producer, Richard Lampert, USM Haller, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MedaPal from Vitra: As used by Alberto Meda and smowblog
December 3rd, 2010 by smow
Alberto Meda @ Orgatec 2010

Alberto Meda @ Orgatec 2010

Although he was not showing any new products at Orgatec 2010 Alberto Meda used the show to catch up a little on what other designers were up to.

And when we caught up with Alberto Meda on the Vitra stand we learned something wonderful: Alberto Meda uses the same office chair as the (smow)blog crew…

(smow)blog: Unless we’ve missed something you aren’t showing anything at Orgatec 2010?

Alberto Meda: No, but I am working on a new product with Vitra, but that is not yet ready and so I am just here to see what is happening. Every designer doesn’t know what the other designers are doing and so for me its’s nice to see some new projects.

(smow)blog: One of your better known products is the MedaPal chair, what was the background to the chair, where did the idea come from?

Alberto Meda: The idea was an evolution of the previous chair designs with a different kinematic system within the structure. To keep the price down we decided to go back to more traditional ways of constructing office chairs. Which means we have a mechanical platform onto which you can add the seat and other components. And so we made first the MedaPro and then the MedaPal. The MedaPal is more economic because the seat does not move, but you still have a lot of comfort and the lumber support is very good and I have been using this chair every day for two years…

(smow)blog: .. the MedaPal ?…

Alberto Meda: … yes…

(smow)blog: …we also have a MedaPal. And, are you happy with it?

MedaPal from Vitra: As used by Alberto Meda and smowblog

MedaPal by Alberto Meda for Vitra:

Alberto Meda: [laughs]… very happy. And when people come to me I let them sit in it and let them play with the mechanics and set the forces and the response is always positive.

(smow)blog: And any current projects you can tell us about?

Alberto Meda: I recently made an airport chair with Vitra which I am very happy with called MedaGate…

(smow)blog: … you like the prefix “Meda” …

Alberto Meda: [laughs] … no, no Vitra decide that, it is not my idea. MedaGate was launched at the Passenger Terminal Expo in March, and my next project is with Vitra, but I cannot say anything about that. But it will be a chair.

(smow)blog: Which we’re looking forward to already. Many thanks!

Posted in Airport design, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Interview, orgatec, Passenger Terminal Expo, Producer, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Passenger Terminal EXPO 201 with smow and USM Haller
March 16th, 2010 by smow

In the past we have often talked about airports, airport design and airport furniture.

And not just because we want to demonstrate how much we travel and how often we are in airports.

But because we find it just as important that high-quality furniture is available in public spaces as in the home or office.

If you think your office furniture is well used – imagine the stress your average airport chair is put under.

From March 23rd until March 25th Europe’s largest airport terminal conference and exhibition will take place at Brussels Airport.

Airline airport seating by Sir Norman Foster for Vitra in Toulouse Blagnac airport

Airline airport seating by Sir Norman Foster for Vitra in Toulouse Blagnac airport

At Passanger Terminal EXPO senior airport planners, managers and designers will discuss in a series of conferences how to improve airports and the airport experience, while in the exhibition area over 150 producers will present their products- as the organisers put it- “from baggage handling and security to passenger check-in and seating solutions”

And, needless to say (smow) has all four areas covered.

Vitra provide a range of elegant public seating solutions from Eames plastic chairs, over designs from Maarten van Severen and on to the dedicated “Airline” range by Sir Norman Foster.

While for all desks and shop solutions – be it check in desks, security or display cabinets – the majestically flexible system USM Haller meets every challenge; and can also be integrated with baggage conveyor belts

And for baggage handling… there’s always the M 4 R from Tecta

More information on USM Haller airport solutions from (smow) can be found at http://airport.smow.com/ and you can read our reports from the 2010 Passenger Terminal EXPO here in the (smow)blog.

Passenger Terminal EXPO 201 with smow and USM Haller

Passenger Terminal EXPO 201 with smow and USM Haller

Posted in Airport design, Exhibitions and Shows, Passenger Terminal Expo, Producer, Product, smow, USM Haller, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foster Airport for Vitra
March 20th, 2009 by julius

Passenger Terminal Expo is Europe’s largest airport terminal exhibition. And while such is always good to know, why are we at (smow)blog telling you.

.04 bench by MVS by Vitra

.04 bench by Maarten Van Severen from Vitra

Because it is a opportune moment once again demonstrate that designer furniture and furniture by top designers can be found everywhere. Even in an airport – an environment that is normally considered as a design desert. Among the exhibitors at Passenger terminal expo is smow partner Vitra. For over 40 years Vitra have been developing and producing seating for public spaces, including airports. The Vitra range includes benches based on, for example, the .04 by Maarten Van Severen and the Plastic Side Chair series by Charles and Ray Eames. A new addition is the Airport range by Sir Norman Foster.

Foster Airport for Vitra

Foster Airport for Vitra

More famous for designing actual Airports, in 1998 Foster and Vitra joined forces to create a sleek, comfortable seating system for terminal buildings that can be effortlessly installed, uninstalled, extended and reduced as required. The Foster Airport series can be seen, and for all enjoyed, for example, at London Heathrow, Göteborg or Porto airports.
And although specifically designed for airports such benches and seating systems are also ideally suited for all public spaces be it museums, waiting rooms, public offices or wherever short term seating is regularly required. Such benches are not listed on the (smow)homepage, can however be ordered through smow.
And if a whole bench is too much, you can always recreate that unique airport atmosphere at home with a single Vitra chair from smow.com

Posted in Airport design, Exhibitions and Shows, Passenger Terminal Expo, Producer Tagged with: , , , , ,