November 1, 2011

Flying High: Bavarian Touches at Flughafen München’s VIP Wing

An airport is the only place where you can come and go without really leaving. You might start out in Munich, Erich Gassmann says, “And your next breath of fresh air is in New Delhi.” Impersonal design further compounds the problem. Thus, it can be difficult for travelers to discern exactly which country’s airport they’re in.

Not so at Flughafen München’s VIP wing. Expanded and furnished by Erich Gassmann Architekten and Tina Assmann Innenarchitektur—collaborators with offices in the same building—the airport’s glorified waiting area boasts such unmistakably Bavarian details as mounted stag’s antlers and a portrait of King Ludwig II. (That’s Mad King Ludwig, as any lederhosen wearing local will tell you.)

Of the undulating ceiling fins throughout the 13,000-square-foot facility, encompassing public and private zones, Gassmann explains that he was inspired by Alpine foothills: “The local topography has soft shapes like these.” A rounded cutout in a gently curving gypsum-board wall reveals the reception station. Behind the receptionists, a wall is shingled in untreated larch, a wood common in the region.

Oak floor planks start in reception and continue into the lounge, where the color palette reveals itself. Swiveling wing chairs by Naoto Fukasawa and round shag rugs are varying shades of green, the banquette is brown, and drum tables by Nendo are white. “Much traditional Bavarian clothing is in those three colors,” Tina Assman says. In the adjoining café, it’s the chairs that are brown and the banquette that’s green. White is represented by Bertjan Pot’s ethereal pendant globes and again by tables. A buffet counter offers such specialties as weisswurst and brezel.

Next to the buffet, the bar wraps a corner to serve both the café and the lounge. You don’t need to be a beer expert to know that Bavaria is renowned for lager, and it’s here on tap at the white counter. A copper color lacquers the wall behind. “Copper is typical of Bavarian breweries,” Gassmann says. “It’s also warm like the larch shingles.”

For those with working rather than drinking on the brain, solo office alcoves are clad in sound-absorbing brown felt and equipped with builtin seats and oak desktops. The three alcoves form a row along the short corridor that connects the front zone to the rear. At the very back are the private rooms and suites for group work or relaxation-all named for Bavarian castles.

A room furnished like a living-dining room, complete with linen velvet wall covering in Bavarian green and brown, can act as a prefunction space for the conference room next door. The task chairs and the long table there are down-to-business, while a feature wall is a rough patchwork of oak blocks. “The wood wasn’t sawed, just cut with an ax,” Gassmann explains.

Of the suites, the one most reminiscent of luxury hotels has its own small bedroom. Across the hall is a suite with a full bathroom in addition to a lounge that’s the most baroque of the bunch. Pink-and-purple florals cover the wall, and an oil portrait depicts a 17th-century princess in an elaborate feather headdress.

While entry to the VIP wing doesn’t come cheap—starting at approximately $500 for three hours—it’s open to any traveler willing to pay. Appeal is sure to increase once the outdoor beer garden opens.

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