Design par excellence
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 3/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
With Charlotte Perriand, Raymond Loewy, and Andrée Putman in its past, Air France has a history of working with leading designers. The latest name on the list is Eric Gizard. Under the leadership of Desgrippes Gobé Group, a brand-management agency, Eric Gizard Associés has completely reinvented the airline's visual identity—devising everything from signage for ticket counters to pillows for first-class cabins. At Charles de Gaulle Roissy airport outside Paris, he also designed two spectacular lounges for Paul Andreu Architecte's new Terminal 2E, meant to resemble a plane's wing.
For all phases of the project, the airline briefed Gizard to steer clear of anything nationalistic. There was, for instance, no question of plastering interiors with the blue, white, and red of the tricolor. "We realized that could convey a certain arrogance," says Air France brand manager Elisabeth Oullié. "We worked more on the idea of French luxury and art de vivre."
"The passengers should feel at home, too," says Gizard. The Charles de Gaulle lounges' bathing facilities, outfitted with black Corian sink counters and teak floors, are certainly something you could find in a residence. Or a boutique hotel.
In the reception area outside each lounge, a large graphic of arum lilies is screen-printed on a panel of backlit enameled glass. Otherwise, the spaces are surprisingly empty, the idea being to put the emphasis on airline staff. Most striking, however, is the luminosity of the daylight-white fluorescent ceiling fixtures bouncing off flooring of reconstituted marble.
Gizard saw simplicity and clarity as his top priorities not only at reception but also inside the lounges. To help passengers understand these complex spaces—each of which comprises a bar and self-service café, an office, and a relaxation salon in addition to the main sitting area and bathing facilities—he defined different zones with contrasting materials. Flooring, for example, changes from the reconstituted marble along walkways to oak parquet in the café and carpet elsewhere. Dividers of transparent glass, printed with a subtle mesh pattern, allow for overall views.
Tan and chocolate hues abound throughout the 1,150-square-foot first-class lounge and the business lounge, a roomy 5,900 square feet. First class distinguishes itself with touches of red: crimson wool carpet, ruddy Trevira CS curtains, and vermilion cowhide wall panels. The latter treatment derives from Jean-Michel Frank's iconic parchment panels, only Gizard's version is more practical. Because his squares are stuck to the wall with Velcro, a damaged one can simply be ripped off and replaced.
Geometry dominates the lounge design. (Desgrippes Gobé executive creative director Alain Doré compares it to a painting by Piet Mondrian.) However, Gizard worked softer lines into furniture details. With his angular leather-covered armchairs and sofas, integral tubular cushions run along the joint between seat and backrest. Relaxation salons' automated massage beds recline in a languorous S curve.
Even the massage beds come equipped with their own reading lights, and Gizard placed Internet ports all over the place, not just in the office zone. "You can eat, relax, read, or send an E-mail wherever you like," he says. Except for the rooms set aside for head-and-shoulder massages.
While passengers unwind, Air France is hard at work on the next phase of redevelopment. By next year, 33 planes will feature Gizard's concepts for first-class and business cabins—notably beds and seats covered in luxurious leather and wool-cashmere—and all staff will be outfitted in Christian Lacroix uniforms. Meanwhile, sound maestro Frédéric Sanchez of Prada and Valentino fashion-show fame is currently developing special in-flight music. The airline is also toying with the idea of creating an olfactory identity. No garlic included.