In 2011, a book named “Aerotropolis” made a lot of noise among the urban planning, architecture and design communities. The book champions the idea that the city of the future will revolve around major gateway airports to attract businesses and people engaged in knowledge-based economies.
THE SQUAIRE is a new conference space attached to Frankfurt International Airport, the third busiest airport in Europe after London and Paris, designed around the principles of an Aerotropolis. It is also located directly above the airport train station and next to the busiest highway in Germany. The overall theme is a “New Work City” offering a full array of business venues, hotel accommodations and personal services from daycare to dry cleaning.
Open since March last year, THE SQUAIRE is a sleek rectangular 6-story building stretching over 1/3 of a mile with a shimmering rounded glass façade resembling a big used bar of metallic soap. The roof through the entire expanse down the middle is glass and every office space and meeting room has a window. It’s difficult to go anywhere here without seeing natural light.
The 140,000 sf of meeting space includes 28 meeting rooms in four sizes up to 2,500 sf, and 44 offices in the business center.
Anchoring the end of the building, the new 249-room Hilton Frankfurt Airport welcomes attendees with a towering glass lobby filled with natural light. Like THE SQUAIRE itself, the Hilton is a model of efficiency. The large lounge and restaurant are parked on each side of the lobby, while the 5,600-sf ballroom with fiber optic Swarovski crystal lighting sits at the end.
Guestrooms are above with an earth tone palette and views of the green forest on the opposite side of the building from the airport. The glass work desks come with dual U.S./Europe outlets and the thick windows block out air traffic sound completely.
And all of this is just 10 minutes to the Lufthansa terminal.
“This is a city under one roof,” says Marc Snijders, Hilton’s director of business development. “We’re the best connected location in all of Europe.”
CITY OF THE FUTURE
Temporarily located in THE SQUAIRE, the House of Logistics & Mobility (HOLM) is basically an R&D think-tank focusing on the evolution of globalization and its effect on how and where we travel. HOLM’s goal revolves around visualizing the most efficient, cost-effective and convenient ways for experts in business and tech to meet face to face.
The present headquarters for HOLM is a bright white 10,000-sf space that feels like it’s from out of the future. A glass boardroom with seating for 50 is surrounded by exhibits about the future of mobility and transportation, and there’s is fun cockpit flight simulator that a few of our group tried out with a Lufthansa pilot.
Professor Dr. Stefan Walter, managing director, spoke to us about the new HOLM facility opening one mile away in October 2013 in the new Gateway Gardens complex, just 10 minutes from Franfurt’s city center. The new 100 million euro campus will be open for venue rental where groups can interact with people like Dr. Walter.
“This is about finding the strengths of our strengths, our core competencies—and for Germany, that’s knowledge and infrastructure,” says Dr. Walter. “It’s also about connecting ideas, it’s about experts having coffee together and fostering innovation that you can’t do via a Blackberry. We call it Globalization 3.0.”
The strength of Germany’s present-day knowledge-based economy and infrastrucuture is part of the reason why Frankfurt is Europe’s third largest gateway, which Dr. Walter says it accomplished without the inbound leisure traffic of the English and French capitals.
However, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are ramping up their transportation infrastructure at an exponential rate with enormous airports and rapidly expanding fleets operated by Emirates and Etihad Airlines. Their growth is actually rearranging intercontinental flight lanes between Shanghai and Sao Paulo.
“Dubai is trying to become the node between Asia and South America,” says Dr. Walter, “which is affecting the future of logistics and mobility on a global scale.”
Frankfurt and carriers such as Lufthansa are not going to compete on a head-to-head basis with the UAE and its sheer volume of aviation infrastructure. Instead, Frankfurt is adapting to the future of mobility by creating the most innovative meeting place for experts in all fields of tech and business.
“The city of the future is an interdisplinary, international knowledge transfer machine,” says Dr. Walter. “If you have two hours between flying from New York to Singapore, instead of spending it a lounge, you’re spending it with your peers at the House of Logistics & Mobility. You might call it the ‘Silicon Valley for Logistics & Mobility.’”