The sky’s the limit
Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel
In early 2020, Hamad International Airport (HIA) announced that it had served a record number of 38,786,422 passengers in 2019, an increase of 12.44% over the previous year and the largest number since it began operations in 2014.
At the same time, Hamad International Airport also announced a multi-stage airport expansion plan. By the end of the first phase, due to be completed by 2022, it will be capable of handling more than 53 million passengers annually; the second phase, to be carried out after 2022, will see Concourses D and E expanded to increase the airport’s capacity to over 60 million passengers per year. Included in the expansion project are a 10,000 square metre indoor tropical garden, an almost 300 square metre water feature, plenty of new retail and catering spaces and the 9,000 square metre Al Mourjan Business Lounge.
An international project
The airport’s future success and need to expand had already been anticipated in 2014, when the management committee assigned the planning, construction and project management of the facilities to the company Bechtel. The architectural project was awarded to HOK, a firm with 1,800 employees working at 24 locations across three continents.
The engineering, procurement and construction contract for both the first and second phases was awarded to the Turkish company TAV Construction and the Japanese firm Taisei Corporation. The interior design project was assigned to the Italian firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel. The work involved the integrated design of lounges, premium check-in areas and so-called activity nodes, open and freely accessible areas offering a wide range of services (playgrounds, internet points, TV zones, refreshment areas and interactive artworks). The spaces are managed by Qatar Airways, Qatar Aviation Service, Qatar Duty Free and Hamad International Airport and located inside the passenger terminal, where they occupy a total area of 45,000 square metres.
Focus on integration
One initial aspect that required attention was the specific needs associated with Islamic culture. The main lounges are equipped with prayer rooms, while the bathrooms — or ablution areas — are designed to cater for Islamic customs and the security areas located in the same lounges allow for discreet identification of women in traditional Islamic dress.
The design brief itself was based on multidisciplinary efforts that provided input on topics close to the concept of «design for all». The client’s technical support team was on hand throughout the design period to provide support in dealing with the various spatial situations that arose in the different project areas.
Flows and orientation
The design concept focused on separating the service flows from passenger flows, and was followed by a thorough analysis of the terminal’s internal transport infrastructure serving the various lounges.
Orientation and accessibility are vitally important aspects for an airport, and this is reflected in the design of areas that all passengers will find easy and comfortable to use. The spaces are designed to be simple to navigate, with orientation seen as a key element in determining the layout right from the design phase. The aim was to enable all passengers to immediately identify the various facilities and destinations.
The use of local materials
The aim of blending in with the local spirit of this new area of the city was largely achieved by exploiting the sensorial qualities of natural materials. «The use of solid materials — unfinished but engraved, decorated and textured — was the main theme of the interior design project; the intention was to generate authentic sensory experiences within an artificial environment,» said Antonio Citterio.
The sequence of the lounges is inspired by a distinctive local sandstone coupled with the Qatar Airways logo, a setting desert sun behind the head of an oryx.
The Al Safwa First Lounge has a particularly complex functional programme, its 9,000 square metre space accommodating a spa, a concept store, a restaurant and bar, a series of private relaxation rooms, family rooms and games rooms. At the centre of the space stands an iconic nine-metre-high sandstone wall. The «special inserts» continue to have a powerful visual impact in the central walkway, where a sequence of Islamic art objects and a large waterfall culminate in a fountain-sculpture consisting of an eight-metre-diameter bronze disc.
The common theme shared by the various spatial sequences is the extra thick porcelain tile flooring specially developed by Cotto d’Este. To meet the complex aesthetic and functional requirements, the company developed a special custom-made product in a large rectified 60x120cm size and 14 mm thickness that would comply with the strictest performance standards for surfaces in high-traffic public spaces. With their distinctive natural-look surface finish, the tiles coordinate effectively in terms of colour and aesthetics with the stones, metals, water and wood that make up the various furnishings and surface coverings used in the space.