The first rule of the new VIP-centre at Schiphol Airport is that strictly no celebrities are allowed. While this no-nonsense attitude might apply to the door policy, it’s the humour of Dutch Design that takes front stage in the interior designed by Amsterdam-based Concrete Architectural Associates.
Those lucky enough to be royalty, a national or international minister, state secretary, diplomat or head of international business and industry – or their guests – have the opportunity to wait for their flights in this private haven away from the chaos of the airport below. As a reaction against the “globalised” atmosphere of airports, the brief specified a scheme that strongly communicated the Dutch identity. It was also integral that a prominent artistic and cultural programme be integrated. In combining these two elements, the interior is a curated showcase of Dutch Design. Modern Dutch designers created all the furniture and accessories, right down to the crockery. Many of them specially commissioned, each object and its designer provide playful insights into the Dutch mentality. To further acquaint visitors with Dutch Design, the bookshelves include publications about the designers whose products were specified.
The interior is more an intimate living room than corporate lounge, but still maintains a professional air. Away from the regulated circulation areas of terminals, there are no corridors in the VIP-centre. In this way, the two entrances from the land and air side are connected diagonally by a series of open public lounges surrounded by private rooms and lounges. Accommodating different functional requirements, each space has its own identity and eccentricities to contrast the atmosphere. The quirky details, which are intended to be discovered gradually, reveal the most about the humour in Dutch Design, where things aren’t quite what they seem and familiarity has gone a bit sideways.
Lighting plays a pragmatic and playful role. The lack of direct daylight is compensated by ambient LED strip lighting along the base and top of the curving glass of the internal partitions. Fitted with sheer white curtains facing the airport interior and opaque glass elsewhere, the walls emit a consistent glow. Loose lighting adds a casual element, particularly the cheeky and iconic light fittings. The seriousness of the Company Lounge is broken by the arachnid Dear Ingo light by Ron Gilad that hovers above the meeting table. With a concealed chandelier inside, the Light Shade Shade by Jurgen Bey fits the family of new antique pieces in the slick Reception Lounge. Mostly intended for business purposes, the lounge is themed in black to avoid a clash of corporate colours. The charred remains of Maarten Baas’s Smoke Chair hint at luxury, while the delicate metallic Garland Lights by Tord Boontje complement the translucent texture on the glass, which references the traditional Dutch industry of lace making.
Designed for the Dutch royal family, the Royal Lounge is a fusion of palatial elements with a modern twist. While the bold white lamps and cabinet might look old-fashioned, they are made out of paper, and designed by Studio Job. Providing additional visual screening, the glass wallpaper featuring 6,000 repetitions of the royal coat of arms is contrasted with a traditional oak herringbone floor finished in high gloss. Blue, one of the royal colours, adorns the custom-made Polder sofas by Hella Jongerius. Adding a personal touch, pictures of the royal family are placed in a hotchpotch of frames. A small detail that reflects well the oddities of Dutch thinking, the 3-Vase by NL Architects is a simple concept that fuses the volumes of three ordinary vases into one eccentric, but splendidly pragmatic, piece.
The graphic elements, as already illustrated by the use of the lace and coat of arms, each tell their own story. This is best seen in the press room, which was envisioned as a joke about a typical Dutch landscape. The abstract pattern on the carpet is an aerial photograph of polder farmland near Schiphol, complete with the black-shadowed dots of cows. Not forgetting the real thing, amid the rows of black AVL office chairs by Joep van Lieshout – custom designed with a writing board – sits a lone chair upholstered with a real cow hide. Designated for latecomers who are banished to the back, an eight-metre-long extruded version of the individual chair is nicknamed the “penalty” chair. If the journalists get bored, they can stare at the pale-blue Dutch sky on the ceiling, complete with an aeroplane, of course. On the glass wall of the central bar lounge, an oversized print of an old Dutch painting features a group of seated men (and one woman) dining. The painting, 18 Members of an Amsterdam Rifle Club Having a Meal, by Dirck Barendsz (1566), aims to make those dining by themselves feel less alone.
If celebrities really want to enter, they could try to marry a member of (any) royal family or a president. But one thing is definite – the interior of the VIP-centre gives a new meaning to the expression “going Dutch”.