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The Design Solution unveils details of Tom Jobim International development program

London-based architecture and retail design firm The Design Solution has unveiled details regarding its dual roles in developing the new pier at RIOgaleāo–Tom Jobim International Airport in Brazil.

The company acted as the commercial planning partner for the airport operator RIOgaleāo, and was subsequently appointed as retail designer to duty free operator Dufry in 2015.

Robbie Gill, founder and managing director at The Design Solution, said, “Without doubt RIOgaleāo is one of the most complex, challenging and ultimately exciting architectural projects we have ever worked on. Right from the start we had several immoveable aspects to address. Firstly the consortium's deadline for completion was penalty-fixed ahead of the Olympics in 2016, which in itself set a very fast pace. Secondly, the buildings themselves came with the multiple challenges of their heavy concrete construction, dominant low beams and a considerable amount of redundant and inaccessible space across multiple levels.

“With an over-riding objective to optimize the commercial opportunity, we needed to factor in new passenger circulation flows and redefined land and airside boundaries. We redeployed existing key infrastructure such as escalators and lifts while facilitating the operational requirements for the new piers and increased passenger traffic.”

The transformation program enabled Terminal 2 (T2) to become the airport’s principal terminal with two linked piers – making Terminal 1 (T1) one of the piers (North) and adding a wholly new second South pier. This meant reconfiguring the whole passenger process including airside and landside boundaries; immigration facilities; and redeveloping the retail space across multiple sites and levels, especially duty free arrivals.

Gill added, “Our solution for the 50,000ft² Arrivals store, located on the ground floor, was designed to enable whoever won the duty free contract to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. With the consumer US$500 duty free spending allowance in mind, we looked at what had worked elsewhere and the lessons learned. We structured the opportunity to enable shoppers to enjoy a secure luggage parking service on entering the store and to go shopping in a civilized way, with a logistical system that reunites them with their luggage at the till point.”

Creating a sense of place for arriving passengers was also a key part of the design firm’s brief and this was achieved by imitating Rio’s beaches and seafront in the patterns and textures used in the floors and walls.

Nick Taylor, director at The Design Solution, said, “Our priority was to create a unique, world class passenger shopping experience that maximizes commercial performance but we were also determined to deliver that with a design that integrates what we believe to be the industry’s most compelling expression of sense of place. We achieved that by injecting an authentic, holistic expression of the vibrancy, color and passion of this amazing city, its rhythms and the geography of its stunning location.

“We took a core palette of the most iconic elements that make Rio instantly identifiable across the world, most notably the natural, architectural and social qualities of the Copacabana Beach neighborhood, the dramatic vertical backdrop of green peaks surrounding the city and, of course, the sheer vibrancy and rhythm of carioca life.”

Sandro Fernandes, chief commercial officer, RIOgaleão, said, “In everything from its recently launched new name and colorful logo, RIOgaleāo–Tom Jobim Airport reflects the movement, rhythms and geography of the city. We challenged The Design Studio to share that spirit across the new commercial space and we are delighted with the results, despite the incredible complexity of the project.”

June 7, 2016


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