Tuesday, 16 September, 2014

Published June 07, 2014
From cars to planes
BMW-owned DesignworksUSA has refreshed SIA's first class cabin for an even more exclusive experience. By Samuel Ee
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The first class cabin of SIA's new range of Boeing 777 aircraft has generously proportioned seats and each seat now has a quilted headboard for cushioned comfort

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Each seat's personal space now has an entrance with higher panels which provide physical separation space from other travellers. A lit compartment provides storage space for personal items.

DESIGNWORKSUSA has the distinction of penning the BMW X5, the German carmaker's first sport activity vehicle and the beginning of a segment which has spawned a successful line of cars. But the design consultancy, bought by BMW in 1995, also has a diverse range of non-automotive clients and projects across the globe.

Founded in 1972 by Charles Pelly, DesignworksUSA is based in California with studios in Munich and Shanghai. The latter was opened in 2012 after the Singapore studio, set up in 2006, was relocated.

Apart from the X5, DesignworksUSA also created the X1, X3 and X4 out of the California studio. But a recent visit shows that company is equally adept at designing everything from toothbrushes and coffee machines, to mobile phones, medical equipment, outdoor furniture and even trains and yachts. And of course, Singapore Airlines' new first class cabin for its new range of Boeing 777 aircraft.

Johannes Lampela, the creative director responsible for the redesign of the B777-300ER First Class, explains that the idea was to move beyond functionality to the experiential. The Finn is an expert in aviation projects and he wanted to create an interior of contemporary elegance, one which caters to the emotional and physical comfort of the passenger.

Each seat's personal space now has an entrance with higher panels in warm and inviting materials and colours. The curved ends of the panel "embrace" the private passenger space and provide physical separation space from other travellers. With soft uplights, diamond quilting and a personal credenza, it is more private room than airplane seat.

The spaciousness is emphasised with details like a continuous façade for the inflight entertainment system, while a lit compartment provides storage space for personal items such as watches and spectacles. For added refinement, the tray table track, which used to be exposed, is now concealed.

But it has to be the generously proportioned seat that takes centre stage when discussing the first class cabin. DesignworksUSA retained the flipdown mechanism because it allows for leather upholstery on one side, and textile on the reverse for added comfort.

And, as befits service at the front of the plane, when the passenger rises from his or her seat, it gives the crew an opportunity to make the bed for them. Because the previous bed was not designed for sitting up, now there is a quilted headboard for cushioned comfort.

DesignworksUSA conceptualised the new first class cabin two years ago, and the outfitted 777-300ER aircraft began operating last October.

Like a BMW car, the new planes come with a promise of the ultimate flying experience.