Sleeping amongst aeroplanes
Tile X Design
What does the name Minneapolis bring to mind? Up until 28 May 2020, most people would have said Prince, the Mississippi river, Mark Twain or the lakes, but since then the city has become associated with the tragic events leading to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. The name Minneapolis itself contains a promise of integration and a blend of cultures: in the Dakota language «mni» means water while «polis» is Greek for city. And Minneapolis is indeed a city of water, given that the hinterland surrounding the Twin Cities (the other twin being Minnesota’s state capital Saint Paul) is home to twenty lakes and the Mississippi River, which we all remember as the location of Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as countless smaller streams and waterfalls connected by a system of parks. Minneapolis is also the city of Prince, of art and of flour milling, an industry that brought it wealth and global fame prior to 1932.
MSP: an aerotropolis or a simple transit hub?
«Airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th and seaports in the 18th,» wrote John D. Kasarda, director of the Center for Air Commerce at the university of North Carolina, President and CEO of Aerotropolis Business Concepts LLC, President of the Aerotropolis Institute in China and editor-in-chief of the magazine Logistics. In the 2000s, Kasarda revived the word aerotropolis, a term originally coined by Nicholas DeSantis, a New York artist who was the first to depict an airport on the roof of a skyscraper in one of his drawings. This famous image was used in the November 1939 issue of the magazine Popular Science to illustrate the urban reorganisation processes whereby airports are constructed in ever closer proximity to cities. The area surrounding Minneapolis — Saint Paul International Airport where the Intercontinental Luxury Hotel is located fully reflects this new global vision. The MSP website contains numerous references to the ROI generated by the airport. These new developments become economic entities in their own right. Resembling municipalities, they are managed in the same way and dialogue both with the surrounding communities and with their international passengers. To give an idea of the order of magnitude of the economic value generated, in 2019 the airport handled more than 39 million passengers, who at the time of arrival and departure become the target clientele for all the retail businesses operating in the airport area. Their estimated annual expenditure totals around $2.5 billion, generating almost $1 billion of local and federal taxes.
Graves Hospitality, the co-developer of the hotel together with the Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation, was well aware of this potential and consulted the list of Fortune 500 companies that have direct interests in Minneapolis and use MSP Airport regularly. In terms of its functional characteristics and services, the hotel caters predominantly for a business clientele (an estimated 70% of guests), whose needs are quite different to those of leisure visitors.
The skyway: the cornerstone of the project
What is it that makes this hotel unique? Why was it chosen as the winner of the Finance & Commerce Top Project award and the Hospitality category of the MREJ Awards, both in 2018? The reason is that passengers can disembark from the plane and check straight into the hotel while fully complying with the safety standards and protocols laid down by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Metropolitan Airport Commission. With this in mind, RSP Architects commissioned the Dormakaba Group to supply the essential technology accompanying inbound and outbound travellers, creating a route equipped with a series of sliding doors that close after transit to prevent passenger flows that are not permitted by airport checkpoint security protocols. The perfectly soundproofed building has a striking undulating glass façade that lights up blue at night and is reminiscent of the wave-like movement of water, an element much loved by Midwesterners. Wherever you are in the hotel, whether in your bedroom, in a meeting or conference hall, in the ballroom or drinking a cup of hot tea in the lobby Café, you simply cannot hear planes taking off or landing. Photos of the hotel interiors show magnificent bathtubs with views of the runways. So while relaxing after a long journey or a hard day’s work, you can admire the sight of aircraft in complete silence surrounded by the natural appeal of Piemme’s Purestone porcelain tile collection, whose colours and textures are reminiscent of stones found in the beds of rivers and lakes. The bathroom design centres around the lead and grey colours of the tiles and skirting, while the same collection is used for the shower walls. In all, the hotel’s 300 bathrooms contain 5,000 sqm of tiles, a splendid Italian presence in a city with strong links to its traditions.
The demand met by the project
InterContinental Minneapolis — Saint Paul Airport is the only hotel directly connected to Terminal 1, which means passengers can access it without having to leave the airport. It is part of a consolidated American trend that includes other airports such as Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Detroit Wayne Country International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Miami International Airport. The MSP’s Economic Impact Study lists hotel construction as a strategic element in the calculation of the economic return on the investments made to expand MSP Airport.
Projects such as the Intercontinental Minneapolis hotel force us to rethink our style of travel, our reasons for travelling and the way in which spaces are designed according to passenger flows, attributing a value and intended use to each passenger transit area.
Ceramiche Piemme, Purestone
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): <0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): >35 N/mm
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): 9
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant