BRAZIL. The Design Solution has announced details of its role in transforming RIOgaleāo – Tom Jobim International Airport ahead of the Olympic Games in August.

The architecture and retail design specialist served as the Rio de Janeiro Airport Consortium’s architect partner on commercial planning and was subsequently appointed as retail designer to Dufry.


Organic flow: The passenger pathways outside Dufry’s Arrivals duty free store reflect the curved shape of Rio’s beachfront

The Design Solution Founder and Director Robbie Gill said it was “one of the most complex, challenging and ultimately exciting” architectural projects the company had ever worked on.

One of the major challenges was that the consortium’s deadline for completion was penalty-fixed ahead of the Olympics. The buildings themselves also presented a challenge, with Gill noting their heavy concrete construction, dominant low beams and the “considerable” amount of redundant and inaccessible space across multiple levels.

“This set the requirement for us to work with the buildings and to eke out the best reconfiguration of space to create a world-class airport for the anticipated rise in passenger traffic as well as bringing the infrastructure up to today’s standards,” he said.

“With an over-riding objective to optimise the commercial opportunity, we needed to factor in new passenger circulation flows and redefined land and airside boundaries. We redeployed existing key infrastructure such as escalators and lifts while facilitating the operational requirements for the new piers and increased passenger traffic.”

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The retail renovation took into account the commercial importance of duty free arrivals at the airport. The P&C section of the store is pictured here

The transformation of the twin terminal airport enabled Terminal 2 to become the principal terminal with two linked piers; adapting T1 as one (North) pier and adding a new second (South) pier.

The Design Solution’s concept called for a vertical re-positioning of the whole passenger process; several changes in airside and landside boundaries; the relocation of key operational aspects such as immigration; and a redesign of the retail space across multiple sites and levels.

According to Gill, the retail renovation had to particularly take into account the commercial importance of duty free arrivals at the airport.

“Our solution for the 4500m² Arrivals store, located on the ground floor, was designed to enable whoever won the duty free contract to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity,” said Gill. “With the consumer US$500 duty free spending allowance in mind, we looked at what had worked elsewhere and the lessons learned. We structured the opportunity to enable shoppers to enjoy a secure luggage parking service on entering the store and to go shopping in a civilised way, with a logistical system that reunites them with their luggage at the till point.”

RIOgaleão Chief Commercial Officer Sandro Fernandes commented: “In everything from its recently launched new name and colourful logo, RIOgaleāo – Tom Jobim Airport reflects the movement, rhythms and geography of the city. We challenged The Design Solution to share that spirit across the new commercial space and we are delighted with the results, despite the incredible complexity of the project.”

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The Design Solution redesigned the retail space across multiple sites and levels; the Departures store is shown here

Retail vibrancy and rhythm

The Design Solution said its priority for the retail area was to deliver a shopping experience that not only maximised commercial performance but integrated a “compelling expression” of Sense of Place.

“We achieved that by injecting an authentic, holistic expression of the vibrancy, colour and passion of this amazing city, its rhythms and the geography of its stunning location,” said The Design Solution Director Nick Taylor.

“We took a core palette of the most iconic elements that make Rio instantly identifiable across the world, most notably the natural, architectural and social qualities of the Copacabana Beach neighbourhood, the dramatic vertical backdrop of green peaks surrounding the city and, of course, the sheer vibrancy and rhythm of carioca life.

“When you visit this city you have an absolutely overwhelming sense of exactly where you are in the world and we designed the retail spaces to subtly echo that local energy, environment and lifestyle.  This new travel retail experience was driven by the fact that RIOgaleão and Dufry were bold enough to share our spirit of ambition, innovation and commitment, giving us the extra freedom to express Rio’s Sense of Place in a vibrantly authentic new way.”

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Sky high: The reflective qualities of the ocean light and blue skies are incorporated into the design

Taylor explained in detail how the company created Sense of Place at the airport in a recent article for The Moodie Davitt e-zine, which you can view here.

Rio’s beaches and seafront have been placed at the heart of the design, and feature distinctly in the patterns and textures used in the floors and walls. These are intended to echo the organic form of the sands and the mosaic patterns seen on the Copacabana beach boulevard, according to Taylor.

Other retail design highlights he notes include:

  • The reflective qualities of the ocean light and blue skies are shared through the installation of projections of moving lighting caustics incorporated into the central ceiling feature, drawing attention to key product areas, such as Perfume & Cosmetics.
  • Many of the ceilingscapes above the store pathways include contemporary-styled references in tones and texture to the indigenous timbers of the Brazilian forest, particularly in the Duty Paid store.
  • Nature references feature throughout the store designs, including the topography of Rio’s natural landscape. The city’s mountainous backdrop and its greenery are represented through the use of green-toned contouring lines, reminiscent of the concentric patterns on a topographical map.
  • Technology is another reflection of modern Rio and extensive use is made of innovative digital technology, such as on the shop front fasciae and, positioned at key journey points throughout the stores, a series of large digital display drums.
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Colourful creation: Inside Dufry’s new Departures and Duty Paid (bottom) stores at Tom Jobim International Airport

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