When was Autoban first approached about the project?
We were first approached about this project in June 2012.
Who is the client?
What appealed about the project?
Aviation has always been a field that we felt very attached to. It started with us designing the head office for Turkish Do&Co – the company that operates gourmet meals for airlines in Turkey. Then came the interiors of Turkish CIP Lounge at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. That project was named among the 10 best airport lounges in the world. And now a complete airport... This is our largest commercial public project to date, and it gave us the opportunity to apply our expertise in hospitality on a much larger scale and to a wider audience. We’ve been designing cafes, restaurant-bars and hotels for the last 11 years. So, the airport was like a huge playground for us to apply our imaginative, idiosyncratic, and human-centred approach in hospitality design.
What was the client brief?
The brief included all of the interior architecture of the terminal, which covers all sections and areas that are used by passengers. The design needed to reflect Azerbaijani culture values people, so it was always going to be a human-focused environment, putting their needs first. The client wanted a space that evoked a feeling of warm hospitality and a contemporary presentation of traditional design touch points extended to a whole airport terminal.
As a result of globalisation, our traveling habits are changing rapidly and airports are fast becoming destinations of their own within the tourism industry. They are the welcoming faces of the countries, where you get the first impression about its culture. Keeping this fact in mind, the new Heydar Aliyev International Airport terminal was designed as a forward-thinking, modern building that fits the new face of the modern city of Baku.
Who designed the Terminal Building?
The terminal building’s conceptual architecture was designed by Arup. And we were responsible for all of the interior architecture.
How big was the project team?
We worked with an in-house team of 15 consisting of architects, interior designers, furniture and lighting designers as well as engineers. And as with all our projects, all three of us were very much leading the brief from conception to completion.
What was the inspiration behind the design?
The keyword for us was ‘warm hospitality’. To achieve this, we adopted the architectural structure of the terminal and played with micro-architecture within the cavernous space to bring it down to a more human scale, so that it felt like a cocoon. This is not an airport where the space dictates. Instead, the people are in control. Traveling has become a huge part of our lives. So as designers we believe it’s our goal to make it as enjoyable as possible for the public by changing the fundamentals of such transportation hubs.
What are the key design elements?
Wood and natural materials. In addition to that, the triangular structure of the building is reflected in the entire interior. And of course the biggest design elements are the series of custom-made wooden ‘cocoons’, which are what we call micro-architectural elements.
What is the design thinking behind the cocoons?
The cocoons exist at the convergence of architecture and art, creating an inviting, intriguing landscape within the huge transportation hub that challenges expectations of the airport environment. They create a sense of welcome and trigger the sense of discovery.
Is there significance in the use of triangular forms throughout the design?
Triangular geometry comes from the architecture scheme and structural design of the airport building, and we continued this throughout the interior to present one strong fluid design. We believe architecture and interior design should be coherent. Using triangular forms was a way of respecting the architecture and adopting it for us.
How many Cocoons are there in the airport?
There are a total of 16 cocoons. 11 are solid in form and are clad in wooden panels while 5 have open frameworks.
What are the cocoons used for?
The cocoons have a variety of uses, there are two cafes, a champagne and caviar bar, a kids play area, a spa and beauty shop, a music and bookstore, and some provide amenities such as luggage storage. The use of the cocoons is flexible and it is expected they will change over time as the airport terminal evolves.
Were the cocoons constructed on or off-site?
They were manufactured in Ankara – capital of Turkey – under the supervision of METU engineering professors. They were then assembled on site.
There is as lot of wood in the airport, what is the reason behind this?
The main idea was to overturn airport conventions of cavernous spaces and impersonal experiences. We wanted to bring in ‘warm hospitality’ to the airport experience. To create a welcoming, comfortable and contemporary environment that generates a sense of belonging and homely feel for its users and to offer a brand new passenger experience at an airport
Is wood a practical material for an airport environment?
This is a common belief that it is not, and there are many other preconceptions about airports that lead to a certain uniformity. We wanted to challenge this. Why not use wood at an airport? How we can incorporate wood into our design, and break away from the typology of conventional airports that overwhelm passengers with their scale, standards and technology? These were the questions. As a result, with the aid of innovative production technologies, wood became quite a practical material for the airport.
Did you face any new challenges with this project? What did you enjoy most about this project?
As the main idea was to break away from the general airport typology, it was quite challenging to convince all international partners of the project. But in the end, it turned out to be the part we enjoyed most out of the whole experience.
How long did the project take from commission to completion?
It took less than 2 years. In the first 8 months we worked on the design, and then we worked on ensuring that the completed project was true to our designs.
How large is the airport?
It spans over 65,000 m2
How many people will pass thorough the airport every year?
More than six million passengers a year are expected to pass through the Terminal. Baku is not only Azerbaijan’s main gateway, it also serves the wider Caucasus region.
What has the response been from travellers passing through the airport?
The response to the new terminal has been incredibly positive and the comment we hear again and again is that it doesn’t feel like being in an airport, which we take as a great compliment. Azerbaijani people are proud of their new airport because of the way it reflects what their country stands for.
Is this your first project in Baku?
Yes, this is our first project in the Republic of Azerbaijan. And we are at the stage of developing some other new projects. It is too early to talk about them at this stage but we can say that some are also aviation-related.
When was Autoban first approached about the project? We were first approached about this project in June 2012. Who is the client? Azerbaijan Airlines What appealed about the project? Aviation has always been a field that we felt very attached to. It started with us designing the head office for Turkish Do&Co – the company that operates gourmet meals for airlines in Turkey. Then came the interiors of Turkish CIP Lounge at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. That...
- Year 2012
- Client Azerbaijan Airlines
- Status Completed works
- Type Airports