Finding Europe in Design – the Airport Architecture

This year’s motto, Finding Europe, was realized by the re:publica designers and architects in just a few months. For the #rp15 the STATION-Berlin was visually transformed into an airport. Leading idea for the architecture this year was to convey the concept of Finding Europe with an airport pictured as an empty space. Various social, cultural and political issues of Europe are compressed into the image of this non-space, and also other transit spaces like harbours or railway stations. Some people are welcomed; others are deported.

With all its hustle and bustle, this is still a place that is regulated and structured, and yet its sterility is regularly met with great emotions and encounters. And finally, the challenges related to the networked society and the Internet are also reflected in the image of the airport. On international soil, an airport is a place that belongs to everyone and no one, vigilantly controlled, and nevertheless filled with life and history. It can be a refuge as much as a prison, as Edward Snowden’s dramatic deferment for more than a month at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow has shown.

[caption]A stand as seen in the partner area at re:publica. The set-up resembles a duty-free-zone; credit: Spreekulissen[/caption]

All these ideas were realized by our superb architect, Mathias Lücking of Spreekulissen, in collaboration with the visual masterminds Malcolm Bunge and Rafael “Raf” Scovino of Haarhaven&Uestion, and implemented into the design of the STATION-Berlin – a building that also used to be a traffic hub: a postal station. For the sake of sustainability, it was advised to reuse some of the items from last year’s re:publica. But architect Lücking integrated these in such a way as to create something entirely new. The white bakery crates from the previous year were lined with silvery fabric, their shapes reminiscent of the 1970s. But with their semi-transparent membrane structure, they had a futuristic look at the same time, and the structure of the bakery crates would produce fascinating shadow effects in the right light.

[caption] The info-point welcomed guests with monitors in airport-style; credit: Spreekulissen [/caption]

The visual concept of ​​the airport showed up in various simple forms. The monitors at the info booth and partner booths with their slated lettering, for instance, were clearly reminiscent of the information and check-in desks at airports. The partner booths themselves were numbered and arranged in clear orthogonal blocks, and served as a transit zone between the check-in and the main stages – as what you might call the duty-free area. The Welcome Column as well as the cube on the Affenfelsen (monkey rock) were abstract versions of airport towers and provided orientation on the extensive grounds of the STATION-Berlin. And the shape and structure of the seats on the monkey rock were clearly inspired by luggage conveyor belts. The specially designed iconography, which we already introduced here, lines up perfectly with the aesthetics of information. At airports and railway stations, we tend to focus on easily recognizable symbols. Along with the cool, clear colours of the visual design, these icons permeated the entire venue, combining all the elements into one effective overall concept.

[caption]The guide-system helped the 7000 visitors to navigate around at re:publica 2015; credit: Haarhaven&Uestion[/caption]

For a couple of days, re: publica and the STATION-Berlin were turned into a transit point, a place where people of different origins and backgrounds convene. A conference is like an international place of exchange, a place of transition for travellers with various destinations. Veteran globetrotters could meet up with the business class, and the all-inclusive guests could chat to excited newbies, embarking on the journey into the digital society for the first time. You filled this airport – otherwise determined by cleanliness, order and control – with life and emotion, right up to the landing (with applause for the pilots). So we can only say: Thank you for flying with #BLN575!

[caption]The setup of the "Affenfelsen", resembling a control tower; credit: re:publica/Jan Zappner (CC BY-SA 2.0)[/caption]