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Grand design

ANA’s new Boeing 777-300ER interior has brought together the talents of a London-based design house and a Japanese star architect. Ian Harbison reports
 

The project started in 2014, says Edson Alexandrino, Associate Director at Acumen Design Associates, after All Nippon Airways (ANA) turned to non-Japanese designers for the first time, with Acumen winning the bid.


The scope of work included the design and development of seating products for all four classes of service (First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy Class); galley entrance area at Door 2 and Door 3 passenger bar area for use by Business Class customers; and Colour, Materials, Finish (CMF) across all aspects of the cabin interior. Acumen supported the programme from initial research and concepts, through every key milestone to final aircraft delivery – Alexandrino, who was design lead on the Business Class cabin was on the ferry flight from Seattle to Tokyo and Mike Crump, Acumen’s Brand Experience Director, was there to see the aircraft arrive.


The reason behind the upgrade is that the Japanese airline is facing an ageing and declining domestic population, so it has to attract more overseas visitors to Japan to continue to grow. Thus, ANA looked to a western design agency to redesign the cabin to suit a more international market. Above all ANA wanted to introduce a new innovative Business Class seat that would differentiate the airline from its competitors and to target more premium leisure customers who want more flexibility and sociability when they fly. There was also a timeline imposed by the return of the Olympic Games to Japan in 2020, which will attract many thousands of visitors to the country.


The new cabin will be line fit on six 777-300ER aircraft and retrofitted to a further six. The airline also has 20 777X aircraft on order. The 777-300ER configuration is 8F/64C/24PE/116Y, for a total of 212 passengers. Crump says the airline’s commitment to, and confidence in, the cabin is shown by a loss of four business class seats compared to its previous Business Staggered layout.


The Acumen team flew numerous times with ANA for design meetings and experienced the airline's attention to detail in the cabin service, the existing Business Staggered seat layout and the generous 34in pitch in Economy. The flight audits and immersion into the existing ANA experience was important research, and helped to inform the initial business class concepts of which there were three. One was based on an improved Business Staggered but the other two were much more radical and all were shown to the airline as wooden spatial mock-ups.


To Acumen’s surprise, the airline said one of the concepts was similar to a new seat concept called Fusio, which had been privately presented to ANA by Safran Aerospace a few months earlier at AIX in Hamburg. Crump comments it was in one of the private rooms on the exhibition stands reserved for airlines, which design agencies are not usually invited to. As a result, ANA decided its preferred route for Business Class was to merge the two concepts and asked Acumen to work with Safran to develop the seat through to production.


When the project was at the Preliminary Design Review stage, after a full-scale styling mock-up had been constructed, leading Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was invited to collaborate in the design of the cabin interior. He had just completed a redesign of the airline’s lounges and the idea was to develop a seamless experience between the ground and air. Crump comments that the Acumen team had been inspired by his work in the initial stages, when they were researching contemporary Japanese culture.
His biggest influence was his design philosophy that has a connection to nature and organic materials, especially in the use of wood. In fact, says Crump, four different woods were introduced, inspired by modern Japanese homes – red and yellow rosewood as digitally printed laminates produced by Schneller, light Japanese ash and dark Japanese ash as screen printed laminates supplied by Isovolta.


The wood decorative laminate also appeared in the lavatories, along with non-textile flooring patterned to represent vals stone tiles, a Swiss basalt slate. This is grey-blue with white quartz veins and the material was extended from the floor to the wall, creating an illusion of greater space.


THE Suite


First Class has been designated THE Suite and is inspired by luxury Japanese hotels, hence the extensive use of dark rosewood throughout the space. There are eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, the front outboard seats being at a slight angle because of the curvature of the forward fuselage. These are a highly customised version of the JAMCO Serenity seat, with double sliding doors to create an enclosed shell, and have also been installed in a slightly modified form in the airline’s two Airbus A380s. The space between the seat shell and one sliding door forms a closet. There is a 43in 4K monitor for the Panasonic IFE system. A movable partition can be adjusted upon request to pair the centre seats. The length of  THE Suite means that each outboard passenger has three windows in space. The seat reclines to an 81in fully flat bed.
The cabin bulkheads feature a foil with an original grey cloud pattern, inspired by traditional Japanese paintings, that provides a natural backdrop for the cabin. Crump comments that Kengo Kuma liked the idea but suggested a warmer grey.


THE Room


The inspiration for the Business Class seat — THE Room — came from a mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese living spaces. It has a 1-2-1 configuration, with alternate rows of forward and aft facing seats at 53.5in pitch, with most outboard passengers have two windows. With the seat in flat bed mode, the large width of the seat means there is an extensive area for the passenger to use as they like. Alexandrino noted that in the product's development and on the delivery flight Japanese passengers utilised the space in a totally different way from Western passengers - there is space for two passengers to sit cross legged and converse in the centre seats, while other passengers sat in the same way to eat, with the fold out table at about the same height as a chabudai, or traditional Japanese dining table.


Privacy is assured by a large horizontally sliding door and a smaller vertically sliding screen to the aisle. Crump says the sidewalls of the seat shell have a slight curve to soften the outline when looking at the entire cabin (in contrast, THE Suite is deliberately angular), which means the rail also have to curve, adding a slight complexity. The doors can be deployed automatically but are stowed manually. The curves have echoes of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 First Class interiors of Etihad Airways, launched in 2014 – Alexandrino and Crump were both members of the Etihad Design Consortium, which consisted of Acumen, Factorydesign and Honour Branding (Crump’s company at the time). A number of other Etihad influences are noticeable, for example, galley curtains sliding into a monument, rather than tied back.


Universal PC and USB ports are contained at the bottom of a stowage unit for headphones, which also has a vanity mirror. Items to be charged can be stowed behind the door and kept out of sight. This reflects a Japanese design culture of a purpose and place for everything, and so there are further stowage places under the ottoman and the 24in 4K monitor, helping to give the passenger an uncluttered space. Crump says much of the interior of  THE Room relies on high quality fit and finish to present a seamless appearance, with no ‘jewellery items’ to distract the eye. Alexandrino adds that much consideration was given to the positioning of split lines to give a cleaner appearance and facilitate assembly and maintenance.


Kengo Kuma’s influence sees light Japanese ash used on the outside, dark Japanese ash inside for warmth and rosewood on the table. This is supplemented by the use of Kydex panels in a range of warm grey tones.


Both premium cabins have new passenger-controlled mood lighting from the Panasonic Avionics Wellness range. This uses two types of LEDs to provide configurable sleep and wake cycles, enhance meal presentation and improve legibility and comfortable reading. It is fully integrated into the entertainment controls. Each passenger will also have a bespoke seat mattress and bedding from Japanese textile firm Nishikawa.


Welcome Experience and Social area


To create a sense of arrival and meet the expectation for more space and freedom to move around in flight, two galley areas were heavily customised. The Door 2 area has been redesigned to enhance the main entranceway, with two welcome monitors and improved lighting, and at Door 3 the redesigned galley serves as a passenger bar area. The galley and bar monuments are manufactured by JAMCO with Essence inserts from Collins Aerospace. During boarding, these are covered by roller blinds which repeat the cloud motif from First Class. All the units have a light Japanese ash wood effect, while the lighting panels on the bar unit are designed to resemble traditional Japanese hand-made paper (washi).


In flight and after meal service, the bar area can be used by Business Class customers as a social area. There is a large monitor screen and mini-fridges stocked with beverages and snacks for customers to enjoy at any time, reflecting the Japanese philosophy of Omotenashi (open hearted hospitality).


Premium Economy


This cabin uses the ZIM Magic seat, recently installed on ANA's Boeing 787-10 aircraft in a 2-4-2 configuration at 38in pitch. There is a 15.6in touch-panel monitor, which ANA claims is the largest available in any Premium Economy cabin worldwide, and a large table that swivels through 90° for easy aisle access. All seats are equipped with leg and foot rests, PC power port and USB port and a six-way adjustable headrest. Acumen modified the pocket area to enhance the premium look and feel of the stowage space for cell phones and other small items.


Economy


The RECARO CL3710 seats also come from the 787-10 and are installed here in a number of configurations. At the front, there is a triple on each side, fitting around the Door 4 galley, followed by eight rows at 3-4-3, then three rows at 2-4-2 as the fuselage tapers, with a final row of 2-4 as a monument intrudes on the starboard side. All are at 34in pitch. They have a 10.6in touch-panel LCD monitor, universal PC power port, USB port and cup holder. Extra comfort is provided by a three-step shifting footrest, and a vertically adjustable headrest.


The fabric seat covers in Premium Economy and Economy are supplied by Rohi. This features a 20m long design repeat, which is composed of varying patterns, textures and styles that are strung together endlessly, with seamless gradual transitions. Pieces, cut out of the roll and sewn into dress covers, show random sections of the repeat, while the seat covers can be distributed throughout the cabin in any order. This make it easy to replace damaged or stained covers while the entire pattern has a single part number, helping inventory control.


For ANA, Acumen developed a series of four patterns inspired by kimono designs and Japanese artwork and digitised them for a contemporary feel. Called ‘The Journey’, the series starts with clouds (based on traditional paintings and representing ‘Anticipation & Dream’; tatami matting (‘Welcome’); an arrow design taken from the Yagasuri pattern (‘Movement and Travel’); and Sakura (cherry blossom) representing ‘Arrival’ and a time to celebrate life with family and friends (people gather together for hanami parties under cherry trees when the sakura blooms).


Warm grey tones are used in premium economy and blue in economy, and both cabins have a dark blue carpet with bright neon highlights, representing the Tokyo cityscape at night.


Speaking at the launch, Hideki Kunugi, Executive Vice President of ANA, said: “Our partnerships with Kengo Kuma and Acumen illustrate that ANA has sought out the input of the most influential voices in the design community for these innovative new cabin designs." The architect said; "The design process is just as much about what we decided to include as what we decided to omit. My work is about understanding how space is used and creating the most comfortable conditions in any environment. I enjoyed working with ANA and Acumen to combine the best of Eastern and Western design traditions and create a finished product that sets a global standard by embracing Japanese heritage and international outlook." Ian Dryburgh, Founder and CEO of Acumen, concluded: "Combining our expertise in aviation interior design with the renowned visionary approach of Kengo Kuma, together we have created a striking cabin that has elevated the ANA customer experience to its highest level across all classes."


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