Dutch creativity takes the stage at the VIP Center of the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, redesigned by Marcel Wanders studio to offer guests an immersive experience amidst icons of Dutch history and culture, seen from the perspective of design

“Habitation does not mean being surrounded by something, or occupying a certain position on the space of the planet. It means establishing such an intense relationship with certain things and certain people that our happiness and our breath become inseparable,” writes Emanuele Coccia in his successful book Filosofia della casa (Einaudi, 2021). A house, seen as a psychological rather than simply physical artifact, is always a source of stories. And Marcel Wanders, who understands these matters after having imprinted his original sign on thousands of unmistakable products, amidst sensual, enveloping curves, memories, design and art, has accepted the challenge.

Asked to redesign the interiors of the VIP Center of the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, namely the contents of a concrete box designed ten years ago by Concrete Architects for the main airport of the Netherlands, Wanders has imagined this space of transit and temporary stays for relaxation or business, set aside for travelers awaiting their flights, in the dimension of a house in the wider sense of the term, for a more engaging, curious and personal airport experience. Disrupting and unforgettable, as is always the case in his behavioral design approach.

“The red thread of the project was to bring a narrative dimension of Dutch creativity in time, along with its roots, emphasizing the heritage of our culture, first of all in relation to the masterpieces of Dutch painting of the 17th century, which continue to be an endless source of stimuli, for me and for generations of designers,” Wanders explains. “In the various rooms of the lounge, we have selected and placed works of art by great masters on digital screens inserted in carved wooden frames, flanked by contemporary design pieces and one-offs that are iconic expressions of our crafts of exceptional quality, against a background of custom printed carpets and backlit walls in curved glass, conserved as traces of the previous interior design. This was a way of fostering the immersion of guests in another dimension, not just material and tactile, but also emotional in nature.”

A truly unique location. Each of the 11 rooms of the lounge, organized on two levels (ground and first floors, for a total of 708 square meters) interprets a particular theme and atmosphere, also extending to the circulation zones, with different colors, materials, figurative motifs and furnishings, generating a choral narrative. There is a Portrait Gallery with screens and digital prints, a tribute to key figures of Dutch history. Followed by the Delft Blue Salon, a space with an exclusive focus on the age-old technique of Delft Blue ceramics, derived from the art of the Ming Dynasty. Other spaces include the smoking room with vintage furnishings, stories of the origins of tobacco and the adventures of the first Dutch explorers; the Oasis of Silence, a room permeated by soft-touch finishes to enjoy peace, silence and rest; a library for solitary reading, not far from a multifunctional press room and a conference room with smart devices of the latest generation. The old and the new meet freely in a holistic way in this atypical location.

Amidst works of trompe-l’oeil, decorative wallpapers, photographs by Hendrik Kerstens and Irma Boom to pay tribute to Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan van Eyck, sculptures and accessories by Dutch contemporary designers like Maarten Baas, Studio Drift, Kiki van Eijk, Studio IJM, Pepe Heykoop, Floris Hovers, Peter van der Jagt, Daphna Laurens, Norman Trapman, Sjoerd Vroonland, then ‘lit up’ by design lighting fixtures by Ontwerpduo, Kiki van Eijk, Studio Job, Atelier Van Lieshout, Bertjan Pot, Rick Tegelaar. In the orchestration of these expressions, each contribution plays its part in the postmodern theatrics of Wanders, also with the participation of 'characters' produced by Moooi, of course, and design Made in Italy created by the studio of Marcel Wanders in recent years. In this ‘house,’ all the objects become empathic conveyors of a deeper meaning and symbolic values.

“The whole experience has been organized in order to allow people to feel the breadth and vitality of Dutch culture, providing better comprehension of our love of beauty and our design sensibility. After arriving here, guests will continue their voyage in a different way. This is our souvenir for them,” adds Gabriele Chiave, creative director of Studio Wanders. Unfortunately, to see the phygital wonders of this exhibition, based on a wide-ranging concept of collective inspiration, and to rethink our reality through the filter of differences, you have to have a plane ticket. Maybe that’s a good reason to go out and buy one!

Interior design by Marcel Wanders studio Marcel Wanders – Gabriele Chiave

Photos courtesy of Marcel Wanders studio