Hilton Frankfurt Airport at THE SQUAIRE

The designers’ objective when creating this hotel was to provide a haven of relaxation within THE SQUAIRE, one of the world’s most “mobile” pieces of real estate linking an airport, railway and two highways – all next to the leafy green Frankfurt Municipal Forest. Located inside this iconic “horizontal skyscraper” that is about twice as long as the height of the Empire State Building and is shaped like a futuristic aircraft, the gold LEED-certified oasis responds to Hilton’s brief to introduce a sleeker style for its flagship while combining luxury and leisure for business travellers.For the design team, the envelope’s 366,000 ft2 size and three-dimensionally rounded shape were both a huge challenge and a great opportunity to balance hi-tech vibrancy with low-tech organic forms. Entering at fifth floor level, hotel guests are immediately introduced to the main narrative of the design, the contemplation of apparently juxtaposed ideas: motion vs. rest, speed vs. deceleration, streamlined technology vs. raw nature, airport vs. forest, engulfing traffic vs. an island of calm, stress vs. relaxation, business formality vs. casual comfort, etc… Two innovative solutions in the public areas celebrate the building’s form and translate the interior spaces into a human scale. The first is a pair of large, sculpturally impressive “golden wings” which extend protectively over the lobby’s reception, lounge and bar, reducing the volume while allowing natural light to filter through from the seven-storey atrium. Fabricated from sinuous bronze metal mesh stretched over curved steel frames, they cushion the acoustics and dramatically set the scene for the flowing forms used throughout the space to create a calming escape from the frenetic commotion of Europe’s third largest airport. The second innovation is the “Globe”, a glimmering, organically curved 5059 ft2 and 21 ft high “building-within-the-building” that accommodates the ballroom and function spaces. Its construction is a highlight both within and outside the voluminous envelope. From the highway, twinkles glimpsed from its irregular mirrored glass mosaics give the impression they could be the lights from a gigantic nightclub. Inside, the Globe’s main area, which can seat 570 people theatre-style, is dramatically illuminated with light flowing through curving ceiling recesses and captured in the Swarovski crystal strips inset into the perforated timber wall panelling – a handsome and practical solution to the issue of acoustics and the need to accommodate hidden ventilations outlets in this entirely self-contained space.In The Fifth, Lounge & Bar, this fusion of apparently incongruous concepts comes alive, with calming symbols of nature from the adjacent forest playing against the fast-paced, machinery-filled bustle of THE SQUAIRE. Inspired by the streamlined fluidity of the building’s contours, the curved horizontal “fins” of the bar’s interior walls shapes the atmosphere in a bold yet cocooning gesture. Soft indirect lighting casts subtly layered shadows across these rippled layers and nurtures the sense of protection and refuge felt within the heart of this “grotto”. A central bar is clad with Corian swirled like fluffy clouds around its curved form and illuminated glass displays twinkle as if stars in the sky. The curved shape of the structure’s façade means that each hotel floor has a different footprint, resulting in an immense variety of room types amongst the 249 guestrooms and suites. In a building with so many hard surfaces, the designers placed particular emphasis on bringing a tactile and comfortable experience into the bedrooms through such means as leather-clad wardrobes and stylised wingback chairs which curve gently around the guest. The floors, ceilings and walls of the bathrooms were prefabricated units installed as a whole into the structure, necessitating absolute precision in the designers’ planning due to this industrial production method of construction. Only final touches, such as the yellow back-painted glass vanity counter and the mirror frames internally lit with LEDs, were added onsite. In the Presidential Suite the use of warm, contrasting colours paired with soft forms and references to nature balances the “artificial/man-made” aspect this high-tech setting. Glazing in the rounded exterior walls has been softened by billowing damask curtains, and a support column has been wrapped with ivory leather padding to coordinate with the suite’s classic COR Sinus seating and a petite stool at the dressing table. Mounted within a grand reeded ebony frame, an oversized mirror doubles as a room divider and anchors this stylish vanity table on one side and then chests of drawers on the other. Noble materials create a sophisticated international flair that reflects the suite’s cosmopolitan setting: bedside pendant lights formed from swirls of glittering Swarovski crystals, 18-carat gold leaf wall covering, and glossy ebony furnishings and wall panelling all inspire a magical glamour. Its bathroom is highlighted by a round whirlpool lit from above by a rotunda of Swarovski crystal lights. Black granite vanities, large mother-of-pearl framed mirrors and brilliant crystal pendant lighting bring elegance to the space. The artwork in both the guestrooms and the public areas explores the contrast between motion and stillness. For example, the pictures in the corridor depict elements of nature captured with a dynamic motion blur. This theme of blurred activity is also carried into the 10th floor Executive Lounge, where sequential fields of colour along the back wall convey the experience viewing scenery that is passing by at a high speed. Here, six enormous double-sided loveseats are functional sculptures whose rounded shape and timber slatted form again suggest movement and calm while echoing the shapes and finishes seen in other parts of the hotel.

JOI-Design is the creative catalyst behind numerous prominent, internationally-renowned hotels, restaurants and spas around the world. The globally-minded, Hamburg-based studio teams with owners, developers and both boutique and well-known brands to design award-winning, one-of-a-kind hospitality interiors that weave each locale’s distinct spirit with the comfort and belonging valued by all cultures. Launched in 1984, in 2018 JOI-Design appointed Sabrina Voecks, Heinrich Böhm and Thomas Scholz as partners to continue the thirty-five-year legacy of founders and co-managing directors, Peter Joehnk and Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk. JOI-Design India, led by managing director Gaurav Premchandani, opened in Mumbai in 2018. 

Comprising interior, architecture, engineering, graphic and product experts, the studio creates hospitality spaces people love and return to time after time. As highly regarded thought-leaders and consultants, JOI-Design embraces client goals to realise optimal and sustainable solutions. Keen observers of the world, they understand how spaces affect people’s physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing, and therefore reflect the modern-day zeitgeist through unique designs that elevate the human experience.

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