Comfort and airports rarely go hand in hand for the general run of traveler. And don’t even think about relaxation. Dashing from the car, to check-in, to security and to the gate, you wind up with a chair, if you’re lucky. Same goes after you de-plane. And waiting for ground transportation? It’s no picnic either. Recently, Los Angeles World Airports asked architect Matt Gagnon to propose a temporary installation for an underused courtyard space at LAX. His novel take transforms that last experience—taking the wait and making a moment of repose, even pleasure. A run of over-scale lounge chairs—think classic backyard loungers—reimagined with nylon strapping, would provide a comfortable space for those minutes before you hop on the shuttle. Illuminattion installed below the seats would add an ambiant lighting effect and make them inviting places to stop even at night.
We talked to Matt about his idea and the inspiration. While it’s on hold at the moment, it’s an intriguing example of how airports, architects, designers and artists are engaged in rethinking the air travel experience.
What inspired the concept?
Waiting. Time spent in anticipation of something else tends to be frustrating. I wanted to reframe the time spent waiting for ground transportation by distracting the traveler with an invitation to relax. I was thinking about of ways to welcome people to LA.
Did you immediately think they’d be over scale or was that an idea that developed over time?
The original intent was to create a landscape type environment for people to sit that would be playful and inviting. The deck chaise typology evolved out of that exploration. It is a form people understand and have positive associations with unlike the benches typically found at curb side pick up.
What about the seat belts? Was that an idea there at the beginning?
I wanted to connect the seating environment to the airport experience. I felt that repurposing a mundane safety device as a delightful gesture towards comfort would help people connect the installation to their overall travel experience.
What about the ambient lighting effect? Was that an idea from the get-go?
The space for the project is beneath the departure drop-off roadway and is dark even in the daytime. A main goal of the installation was to activate this area that is currently underused. The lighting is an easy way to invite people into the space at night.
What are some of least user-friendly pieces of airport architecture and/or design? What could be done to improve them?
Travel is so often the dominated by qualities of efficiency and safety. From a functional or practical perspective that is fine, but I think there could be more gestures to support and encourage the positive psychological and emotional aspects of travel.