Champalimaud Design is a New York-based interior design studio, and their latest project is The Pearl Lounge at Bahrain International Airport (BIA). The 29,000 square foot, 10-room lounge is part of the new $1 billion airport terminal, and the studio has created a unique lounge experience, with a room for every type of First and Business class traveller – setting a new standard for the airport lounge experience.
Bahrain is an island located in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, with the fastest connection time to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The BIA is one of the most modern boutique airports in the Gulf, and The Pearl Lounge only further establishes its innovation and efficiency, a reflection of the Kingdom’s distinct character.
“You have people coming off all of these different airlines from Europe and the Middle East, and they might have long layovers between flights. But the difference is that the Pearl Lounge is not branded by a particular airline. It’s branded to Bahrain.” Ed Bakos, CEO at Champalimaud Design.
Champalimaud Design has used its luxury hotel and residential design experience to translate the impact of intimate spaces to the often vast and impersonal travel lounge setting. The design studio became involved in the project upon invitation from Tony Masters, a high-profile international airport designer and Managing Director of Tony Masters Design, to partner on a competition entry for a Premium Airport Guest Lounge at the new Bahrain International Airport.
The resulting design merges concepts of Arabic hospitality, producing a series of different spaces with their own character and own offering – yet still harmonious with the overall space. This was in response to the Minister of Transport for Bahrain, who wanted to ensure all travellers received a world-class experience. The collaboration has produced a series of disparate yet harmonious spaces inspired by concepts of Arabic hospitality.
Champalimaud Design created a path of discrete and smaller areas, deconstructing the typical open plan airport lounge layout to allow focus on customer service and choice. Expect the service and prestige of a 5-star hotel with the hospitality and ambience of a family home – a place that welcomes all and makes passengers forget they are in an international airport. This project took four years to complete, with the lounge finally opening at full scale in 2022.
“Given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to achieve our goals in a unique lounge experience that looks forward to the future of International travel for many years to come.” Tony Masters, Managing Director at Tony Masters Design.
The facilities and experiences laid out by the studio enable Bahrain’s hospitality and culture to shine through in a contemporary setting. The lounge decor and furnishings, all custom designed, are of a truly exceptional standard, with cultural references scattered throughout. Long, snake-like couches in the lounge emulate seating areas in the Majlis, the Arabic term for sitting room, and evoke the natural sense of movement around the lounge.
The elegant and opulent atmosphere inside The Pearl Lounge is accented with rosewood and gold-plated elements at the façade and in the lounge, is underlined by locally selected and sourced artwork that features Bahrani artists and the use of local materials. Even the name Pearl lounge is a nod to pearl diving which forms a key part of Bahrain’s cultural identity.
The lounge seats 450 guests, with each room having a distinct ambience designed to meet each traveller’s unique needs – whether they are seeking rest, refreshment, entertainment, or workspace. These curated experiences have led to the successful interweaving of both intimate and group settings. Prevalent throughout the lounge is the
use of portals, large, framed openings that define the end of one space and the entry to another. This element helps the lounge spaces feel simultaneously grand and secluded when sealed.
Zones within The Pearl Lounge include a Game Lounge and Family Zone, along with different zones for various cuisines. To create the most seamless and stress-free experience possible, the studio ensured they accommodated the needs and comfort of all passengers, at whatever time they may be travelling; with implementations such as a concierge and dining staff service and all furniture, including charging ports and produced in durable and comfortable materials. Champalimaud Design’s visions have resulted in the Pearl Lounge receiving a five-star rating from Skytrax.
Champalimaud Design always approaches projects with longevity in mind and has an innate understanding of how people can best interact with a space. The studio and the client worked together to think outside what a classic airport lounge design could be, resulting in The Pearl Lounge, a one-of-a-kind offering.
Alongside BAC and under the direction of the CEO Mohamed Bin Alfalah, together with Abdulla Jahani and Derek Hendry, the Project Director, the prolific design studio has established a boutique, elevated experience through an elegant series of spaces, levels above other airport lounges – one that reflects the essence of true Bahraini hospitality.
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