With its new hotel at Oslo Gardermoen airport, the Scandic hotel chain takes the lead in showing us how to make universal design happen in the tourism and travel sector.
Investing in specific design solutions that can benefit everyone is something innovative in this market. There are very few compromises in the hotel design and the result is a building that provides a more comfortable and suitable environment for guests across the market.
Magnus Berglund, Disability Ambassador for Scandic, explains that their goal is to gain an even greater market share through investment in universal design.
“We are already a favoured accommodation provider accessible to all. But as a result of our drive towards universal design we have also made clear gains in the executive and conference market. Several companies and organisations express the desire to hold their events with us, precisely because we can offer universally designed conference facilities,” he says, reinforcing important conclusions drawn from research carried out by Synovate. These demonstrate that design can provide a unique opportunity and become an important force for driving success in all markets, both nationally an internationally. There is a clear link between design and growth amongst the companies who took part in the research.
The Swedish Architect group Krook & Tjäder AB won the contest to design the interiors for the Scandic Gardermoen Oslo Airport in 2009. They combined a holistic concept for universal design with an exciting design idea.
Together with a number of skilled consultants they have shaped a hotel that excels itself by using design in a particularly well-thought out manner . The hotel contains aesthetically beautiful shapes that reconcile with the colour schemes and are inspired by the experience of travel. The mood is friendly and supports the positive feeling that the hotel includes everyone in a particularly welcoming and unique way.
”We had a basic idea”, explains Johanna Vestlin, one of the interior architects behind the hotel’s interior design. “Since this Scandic hotel lies so close to the international airport, it was important to reflect everything that is positive about the experience of travel - such as crossing time-zones and soaring over clouds at any time of day or night. Our basic notion plays on the four themes of sunrise, daytime, dusk and midnight. The colour scale in the interior reflects different hues of light, and decorative elements create associations with movement.”
Johanna explains that Scandic always aims to go that little bit further. They say that if they see scope for improvement they want to lead the way and show how embracing change can lead to innovation.
This is something that this project clearly demonstrates. Work was undertaken to make the hotel facilities suitable for people with environmental sensitivity such as asthma, allergies and hypersensitivity. This was particularly innovative and not usually a primary consideration for most buildings. The selection of materials and solutions for this group was of particular importance to ensure a healthy interior climate. Johanna explains that work was undertaken in close cooperation with the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association which helped them to achieve optimal results.
”All 243 rooms are suitable for allergy sufferers. All the paints, plaster, glues and textiles we used were selected because they give off low levels of fumes. The solutions also simplify good cleaning, which minimises the use of cleansing agents. And all the products used are perfume free. This is not only a benefit for the guests, but also the cleaning personnel. The use of carpets has also been kept to a minimum, but not to the detriment of excellent acoustics,” says Johanna.
“There is good ventilation in all rooms, no-smoking entrance areas, allergy-friendly vegetation and an buffet that is clearly allergy-labelled. In this way we ensure that all the public spaces and accommodation are readily available for sufferers of environmentally triggered conditions, with the exception of certain rooms adapted for guests with guide dogs, of course,” she continues.
The hotel is also particularly well suited for low vision and hearing impaired guests. This includes routes that are easily accessible, ample lighting, large room numbers, visual alarms, telephones with induction loops and charging sockets for electric wheelchairs. A lighting loop outside marks the way from the road to reception.
As well as allergy suffers the hotel also addresses the needs of disabled guests with design details such as broad doors for easy access – incidentally also good for people with large luggage or those travelling in large groups. The finest 25 rooms are built to support people with disabilities. They are accessible by wheelchair and all the lighting in the room can be accessed from height-adjustable beds. The alarms are both visual and acoustic, and the telephones can interact with hearing devices.
Johanna talks about a comprehensive and challenging process, which demanded close dialogue between many different groups including Narud Stokke Wiig Civil Architects, Tupelo Architecture, Utstillingsplassen Eiendom, Skanska, the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association and Norwegian Association of Disabled, amongst others. The last two organisations in particular were essential in achieving the final results, giving input and lending expertise to the process.. Scandic’s own guidelines concerning access for visually impaired people were also applied, and last but not least, good project leadership with a focus on details was vital.
”Because there is such a vast amount of detail it is extremely important to explain, listen, ask and ask again, put simply, to communicate. This was something we did well, which is perhaps one of the principle reasons for our success,” Johanna says.
She goes on to say that regular meetings were essential, but that an equally important contact point for all parties was the project tool www.projektplassen.no. All plans and detailed information were uploaded here, and this grew over time to become a large repository of information. Those involved in the project could access this site to keep themselves updated or add more information.
”It is very satisfying that we managed to pull all the good ideas together," says Johanna. ”Everyone involved has been very responsive and the discussions have been constructive. The compromises we had to take have by no means damaged the integrity of the whole”, she says.
Most people will view Scandic Gardermoen Oslo Airport Hotel as a chic and modern hotel with exciting details and a healthy atmosphere. Universal design is totally integrated in the creation and execution of the building and does not stand out as being different or an ‘add-on’.
On the contrary the hotel aims to include everyone and positively improve their experience. The guests can enjoy functional and well thought out solutions for furniture, interiors and architecture across the board. And it is not only the guests - the management and other hotel employees can enjoy a better working environment and a more rewarding experience. The hotel is a functional and attractive design, that brings socially inclusive ideals to life through a strategic, innovative business idea.PUBLISHED 17.10.2011 15:31