British Airways, The First Wing, private check-in for First Class and Gold Card members, Heathrow Terminal 5


Universal Design Studio are architects and interior designers and Associate Stuart Mauger, tells us how the design developed for this 29 metre long wall comprising 350sq m of material.
Universal Design Studio are architects and interior designers and Associate Stuart Mauger, tells us how the design developed for this 29 metre long wall comprising 350sq m of material.


The Design Objective

We had worked with BA for around five years, previously on the T3 terminal which was on a much smaller scale. The functional objective for this project was to create a bespoke wall for the First Class check-in areas, a fast and direct route from check-in to lounge called BA First Direct Access. The free- standing walls separate the first class and premium travellers from the main concourse and are part of a layout which moves these VIP customers from the air side to land side in under five minutes. The operating procedure had already been established and our physical design had to facilitate and enable the process. We wanted both to create a seamless and intuitive route and, as an aesthetic and brand objective, for the lounge to be a beacon in the muted grey beige tones of the main concourse.


Our Approach

We created a very visible entrance as part of the intuitive design and made it as welcoming as possible. The wall is three metres high and is very impactful so it was crucial to make it inviting and gentle rather than off-putting. We specified three colours, Champagne, Chocolate and Almond Gold and three different sizes of panels.

It was a highly aspirational project and we worked closely with a specialist fabricator to get the right result. The internal steelwork was a challenge in itself – the exterior cladding was tied together from the rear and then the rear of the wall was clad in the panels.

How it was put together and secured was of critical importance for safety in the event of an explosion and in addition to this our objective was to achieve a beautiful effect. We looked at all of the fluted metal flanges in great detail and how they could be refined. Initially the curve of the panel had a large radius but we wanted it to be as crisp as possible and each panel to have no gaps and to join to be almost seamless. So instead of a single curve, the radius is made up of lots of tiny folds that create one, sweeping curve.


Selecting PVD coloured stainless steel

Anodised aluminium had been put forward as an option but it damages a lot more easily than PVD so coloured stainless steel was always preferred. Additionally, we believe that PVD is a lot more aligned with a first class premium finish and anodised aluminium just does not possess the qualities we wanted for that premium look and feel. We took the inspiration for the three shades of gold from the interiors of the first class cabins which have very subtle and reflective colourations.

So overall the PVD coloured stainless steel was a stronger, more durable material than aluminium or other metals as well as having the beautiful reflective qualities we needed for our design.


Project challenges

Challenges on the project certainly included meeting all of the airport standards. We work with an airport consultant who gives us essential advice on all of the health, safety and security regulations. As you can imagine any structure within an airport building must be extremely securely constructed and fixed to withstand any form of disruption or explosion without causing a hazard. But as well as ensuring the robustness and solidity of the design we had to enable a clear vista being maintained. Staff have to be able to view passengers at all times and carry out visual communication so no views could be blocked by any part of the design.

On the manufacturing side this was the largest scale free-standing wall we have created and in addition to that there was the conundrum of how to create the scalloped panels effectively so that they linked seamlessly.


The result

Using the reflective gold finishes has achieved the stand-out effect we were aiming for. Within the grey-toned, subdued space of the terminal the sweeping walls and gold reflection of the lounge is a beacon that stands out as a big contrast to its surrounding environment which was exactly our objective. The feedback has been very positive and we are continuing to work with BA on other Terminals.

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Entrance to British Airways Private Check-In, Heathrow Terminal 5. Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd Photography: Paul Greenleaf

Entrance to British Airways Private Check-In, Heathrow Terminal 5.
Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio
PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd
Photography: Paul Greenleaf

The reflective gold tones are designed to stand out as a beacon within the neutral and beige tones of the rest of the terminal. Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd Photography: Paul Greenleaf

The reflective gold tones are designed to stand out as a beacon within the neutral and beige tones of the rest of the terminal.

Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio
PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd
Photography: Paul Greenleaf

Entrance to British Airways Private Check-In, Heathrow Terminal 5 - Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio - PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd - Photography: Paul Greenleaf

Entrance to British Airways Private Check-In, Heathrow Terminal 5
Architects/Interior Designers: Universal Design Studio
PVD Coloured Stainless Steel: Double Stone Steel Europe Ltd
Photography: Paul Greenleaf

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