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Window on infinity

Posted 22 April 2020 · Add Comment

An extraordinary interior, combining Italian design flair and Swiss completion, has raised the bar for VVIP aircraft and prompted Chuck Grieve to ask: “Is anything now possible?”

The cabin of an Airbus A350-900 offers designers a ‘blank canvas’ 51 metres long and 5.6 metres wide. The possibilities, one could say, are sky-high.
That was the thought of Italian designer, Pininfarina, and VVIP completion specialist, AMAC Aerospace, when they decided to team up on something that would turn heads in their highly competitive market.
The result, unveiled in Geneva, appears to have done just that.
More like a luxury hotel lounge than an aircraft, their cabin boasts the ultimate in on-board experiences through a combination of technology, materials, flair and finish: a “fusion of technology and nature in a unique all-embracing space”, as the partners put it.
It has not gone unnoticed: a Pininfarina spokesman said the concept has attracted interest beyond their expectations.
The two companies had “been in touch” for a long time, said the spokesman, but “something just clicked” when they met again at the last Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. “We decided to create something never seen before – absolutely disruptive, a comfortable and enjoyable concept that makes you forget you’re on a jet.”
Waleed K Muhiddin, AMAC’s director of business development and marketing, said the starting point for both companies was a desire “to push the limits of what is feasibly possible and explore what we expect clients to want.”
The concept they came up with is ground-breaking. “We’ve installed contemporary, culturally assertive, intelligently designed cabins in the past but what we see here is a whole new kind of cabin.”
He said the work that went into this concept, taking into account the use of space, new technologies and exotic materials, sets the bar for the future of aviation completions.
“Airbus has created a wonderful new wide-body platform and we’re excited to see how much attention it can create in the private aviation market,” said Muhiddin.
The cabin is designed as a “cocoon with acoustic sound absorption and thermal retention”.
Immediately aft of the cockpit and forward crew rest area, with its own galley, is a forward VVIP area. In this design, it contains a master office, bedroom and en-suite facilities, a private lounge and adjoining family or play area.
The core area extends back from the front door, which opens into a galley and a wet bar with lounge-style seating. The floor and wall design leads guests into the spacious main lounge and dining/conference hall. The main feature of the core area is a spectacular smart glass wall running the length of the cabin that can be used as a window or a projection screen.
To the rear are an interior vertical garden, planted with maintenance-free moss, and secondary projection screens.
Aft of the core area and accessed by a middle door is a VIP seating area for 18 in a 2-2-2 configuration, and a secondary seating area for 30 guests configured 2-4-2.
There are two galleys, one – outfitted with induction cooker and dishwasher – at the front and a second at the rear.
For someone boarding the aircraft, it will be like entering a luxury hotel lounge. “The first thing you see is the welcome area, furnished with a wet bar that could also be equipped for fresh cooking,” said Paulo Pininfarina.
“We then have a relaxing area with sofas facing a giant screen that can be set up either to project or to enjoy the view, creating a magical intimate atmosphere.”
Completing the lounge is an area dominated by a large table, conceived both for eating and holding meetings, and a chaise longue ‘green’ space dedicated to personal relaxing.
The designers took into consideration a modern traveller’s tastes and needs for multipurpose surroundings that would be conducive for relaxing, working, dining, entertaining and holding meetings. The result is a multifunctional space, tailored for the contemporary lifestyle, which links the various uses in a seamless flow.
Giving expression to this concept is a flowing band that runs the length of the main cabin, leading the traveller through the different environments in a relaxing atmosphere enhanced by the shades of blue, light grey and copper, chosen for the soft fittings and the dark tones of oak and walnut used in table tops and work surfaces.
“Our 360-degree vision on the living spaces, thanks to our expertise in different sectors, allowed us to conceive something that was able to let the traveller enjoy the time on board as if he or she were in a living room or office,” said Pininfarina.
The giant ‘tile screen’ provides a dramatic focal point for the main lounge area. Described as a “giant virtual glass wall”, it has been conceived to respond to several different needs: relaxation, diversion and working.

On-board controls would allow the aircraft’s users to project an extraordinary external view to create the sensation of a vast picture window; to view movies or other entertainment options; or to display business presentations and important documents.
Muhiddin said the giant screen would need certification before it could be implemented. “Once a client is ready to move with us, we would present the tile screen solution to the authorities for approval.” AMAC is currently working with the screen’s provider on feasibility.
Apart from the giant screen, the cabin has other design features you would not expect to find on an aircraft. Natural green elements, for example, are able to recreate a domestic atmosphere, thanks to a process of stabilisation. Another is the AMAC-patented certified induction cooking surface that enables hot food to be prepared in flight.
It took all the Pininfarina expertise in eclectic design, ranging from the nautical to the architectural, to find the right balance between creativity and feasibility. The secret, the company says, is to use the technical constraints to ‘exalt the aesthetics’. “Leveraging our experience from designing yachts, penthouses and villas, we were able to recreate the same warm and pleasant atmosphere, but on board an aircraft.”
Pininfarina’s origins, from 1930, are in designing bespoke one-off cars. The company says its “natural vocation to realise the dreams of our customers” has expanded to include design for the high-end aviation, nautical and architecture markets.
The company is now known internationally for its work in the aviation sector, designing interiors for private jets and commercial aircraft. Over the years, it has developed important partnerships with clients such as AgustaWestland and Alenia (now parts of Leonardo), Airbus, Bell, Boeing, Iacobucci HF Aerospace and Piaggio Aerospace.
In AMAC Aerospace, Pininfarina recognises “the same DNA” – providing bespoke interiors to the most discerning individuals. “The client will always be at the centre of all our projects,” the spokesman said.
AMAC Aerospace is a market leader in the conception, production and installation of bespoke cabins for discerning clients. The Swiss-based company has performed more than 20 completions in its short history. It provides a one-stop shop service with almost the whole production process carried out in-house under the scrutiny of AMAC’s quality inspectors and air authorities from around the world.
Muhiddin said the client is always behind the interior specification. The designer and completion centre start with their wish list to make sure they get included. “What both companies have done here,” he said, “is to present a concept that people might not have thought of before. It’s a fair statement that some notions of design are stuck in the classical approaches; hence the reason to be working at the cutting-edge of what is technically possible.”
Pininfarina says the experience of working with AMAC on this project leaves the two companies in a strong position for future collaborations.
Muhiddin added that the companies “are embarking on a journey to see where these ideas can take us all. Although they’re early in development, we look forward to what the future holds.”
 

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