for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant



Last week thanks to PSFK I was among the lucky few invited for a preview tour of the soon-to-be-opened BA-only Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and the impressive art that has been commissioned for it. If size impresses you then the building itself- a £500mill creation by the Richard Rogers Partnership which we were told several times is ‘the largest freestanding building in UK’ with ‘5 floors each the size of over 5 football pitches’- is sure to wow.

The structure is not only sculpturally beautiful outside and in, but has also been constructed to make the most of its surroundings both environmentally and aesthetically. The liberal use of glass and steel maximises the natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting whilst offering captivating views of the runway to reignite the passion of the golden age of air travel, while attributes including rainwater harvesting and groundwater boreholes will supply 70% of the terminal’s water.

The tour started with an overwhelming amount of data on the new system that BA has put in place to “redefine the passengers’ journey”- including the removal of check-in desks that are replaced by supermarket style groups of self-service kiosks, each group accompanied by a “BA host to assist”. BA estimate that 80% of the T5 users will check-in online, and through their new system expect the whole experience from entering the building to getting through security to take a mere 10 minutes! Not what we experienced however, as journalists are obviously deemed high-risk and therefore we were all thoroughly searched by the very serious security personnel.

Doing their bit for healthy lifestyles, BA have banned “fast-food” from the terminal, so don’t expect a McDonalds or Burger King- however a huge range of healthier-option restaurants including Giraffe, Wagamama and Itsu are available- as is a less than healthy but obviously posh enough to be included Krispy Kreme outlet- and a rather poorly branded offshoot from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, inventively called ‘Plane Food’.


Past the plethora of designer retailers and the ‘largest Harrods outside of Knightsbridge’ we finally reached the escalators that whisk those fortunate fliers to the premier lounges that have apparently cost BA over £60million, and as we walked up the escalator had the pleasure of experiencing the first of the fantastic commissioned artworks- namely the beauty of The Cloud; a kinetic sculpture by design collective Troika which aims to evoke the sensation of elevation as you travel from below to above the clouds as in flight. The 3D structure is covered with over 5000 mechanical flipdots- a technology from the ‘70s still occasionally seen at old train stations- that have been programmed to create a constantly changing and flowing pattern, and amazing accompanying sound.


At the top of the escalator is Troika’s second installation, a 22m long art wall entitled All the time in the world. The wall; a digital world clock made of super-thin electroluminescent sheets, plays with the traditional notion of time zones by replacing the expected capital city locations with exotic and exciting places around the world including natural wonders, great lakes, ancient cities and dream islands. Both pieces elegantly play with technology to revive the excitement and imagination that the travel experience once offered.


Walking through to the First Class lounge, past a set of Front-design collective’s Horse lamps guarding the entrance you are confronted by the amazing Oak Seasons, six etched glass panels by Christopher Pearson. A textile designer turned digital artist, his admiration for William Morris is clearly evident in the incredibly delicately three-dimensionally laser etched screens depicting three seasons in the life of an Oak tree, with hidden details including a football replacing an acorn, a leaf imitating a roadmap of the UK and swig suspended from a branch injecting extra elements of English culture.

Across the corridor to the even more exclusive Concord lounge, the artist’s second commission is a tromp l’oeil relief of the traditional BA crest which has been digitized and transformed into an animated video installation on a 12 minute loop. Entitled Pegasus and the Winged Lion, the characters on the crest play on the idea of Britishness whilst adding subtle humour to the lounge; if you watch long enough you’ll see amongst other things the changing of the guard, a rather big rain cloud and some amazing eccentric inventions!


Other works commissioned include temporary screens by Oona Culley and Robert Orchardson, and Kidzones- an interactive children’s area by El Ultimo Grito, whilst works from BA’s impressive art collection are also dotted seemingly randomly around the lounges- including a Julian Opie found down a corridor, a Damian Hirst that we stumbled across in between two food service counters, and what is sure to be the most expensive art collection in a ladies loo.

All the art has been brilliantly chosen by Artwise Curators, and with previous BA commissions including the likes of Sol Lewitt, Andy Goldsworthy and Tord Boontje, these young artists (all coincidentally RCA graduates- BA supporting another British institution?) are in good company. However this phenomenal creativity is let down by the rather unexciting interior design which despite its obvious excessive price still manages to look decidedly boring and reminds you that despite being open-minded with their walls, BA has a long way to go to embed this thought process throughout.

The debate among us attendees though was why, given the chance to redesign the terminal experience, BA still chose to promote the elitist ideal of art only for the rich. Why were these pieces not available to view from the main concourse? Where were the installations for all? Well there is just one- a Langlands & Bell sculpture that stands on the walls on either side of the entrance to the terminal called Moving World and consists of two luminous arcs of neon signs that spell out airport codes from around the world. Cleverly playing on the language of codes- in travel, in art and in society today, the all-inclusive artwork was commissioned by BAA (not BA!) and is described as ‘a dynamic metaphor for the ever-intensifying network of global communication and exchange- the defining characteristic of our age’. I guess BA didn’t get that bit.

See more about the building at

Filed under: arts & culture, , ,


Inspired by the most traditional of water-travel methods, SkySails aims to get cargo ships using wind power once again. With oil prices rising considerably, and industry increasingly interested in searching out cheaper alternatives, SkySails’ ‘wind propulsion system’ claims to be attracting a considerable amount of interest and it’s no great surprise why.


Essentially the system is two giant kites that act as sails that are connected through a towing rope rather than on a mast directly attached to the ship, plus a wind-optimised routeing system to get the best puff possible. According to the company, using the system average annual fuel costs can be lowered between 10-35% depending on the wind conditions, and up to 50% under optimal wind conditions. They estimate that at the current price of oil that could equate to a saving of 1/3 of a ship’s diesel costs. This has yet to be proved, though the company aims to do just that through it’s first commercial pilot, which launched on Tuesday.

‘A newly built cargo vessel was towed by the innovative wind propulsion of the Hamburg-based company SkySails on the North Sea near Bremerhaven, Germany for the first time. The 160m2 SkySails supported the main engine of the 132m long Multi Purpose Heavy Lift Carrier MS “Beluga SkySails” of the Bremen-based Beluga Shipping with approx. five tons tractive force at low wind.

The cargo ship will set off from Bremen to Venezuela and gain first experiences with the new system during the maiden voyage. “The maiden voyage marks the beginning of the practical testing during regular shipping operations of the SkySails-System. During the next few months we will finally be able to prove that our technology works in practice and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions”.


Filed under: evironmental insights,



Virgin held a press conference today for the unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, their first official space tourism vehicle specially designed by veteran aerospace designer Burt Rutan. Whilst the original concept design, SpaceShipOne, was launched over a year ago, this final refined model is now apparently 60% completed and due to start taking its first travelers next year.

As well as touting the exciting potential of galactic tourism and describing 2008 as ‘the Year of the Spaceship’, Richard Branson used the event to highlight his vision for space as a solution for the future of the planet:

“Our population is now heading to 9 billion people by the middle of this century — that’s three times more than when I was born. With the end of the oil era approaching, and climate change progressing faster than most models have been predicting, the utilisation of space is essential not only for communications but also for the logistics of survival through things such as weather satellites, agricultural monitoring, GPS and climate science.

I also believe that someday we will be able to use space as a source of energy for the planet, through solar power satellites, using the most sustainable source available – our Sun.”

Read the full transcript and see more pics at Virgin Galactic

Filed under: brand extensions, visions of the future, ,

Ecopods for the Cross River Tram in London

With the 100-year-old London Underground system struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of daily commuters and still not able to deal with the unpredictable British weather, Transport For London have been looking to introduce a new tram system that would connect North and South London and offer ‘a safe, green and reliable form of transport’. Planning to run between Euston and Waterloo, with branches to Camden Town and King’s Cross in the north and Peckham and Brixton in the south, the Cross River Tram will help connect multiple areas in 4 of London’s boroughs quickly and easily to central locations, in some cases halving journey time (though that’s probably just due to being programmed to run on time).


The system is not expected to reach construction phase until after the 2012 Olympics, with the aim of starting service by 2016, however local councils are already working on drumming up public support for the project. As a major part of this, TFL and UK initiative hired design agency Wire to develop an eco-friendly identity and campaign, the main focus of which is the ‘Ecopod’ that has appeared opposite the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. The prototype tram station is environmentally friendly (made from a recycled shipping container and powered by solar panels and wind turbines) and offers news and information about the tram and the regeneration programme to all passers-by, both inside the pod itself and through a video presentation projected onto the outside wall. An impressive campaign for a government initiative- plus you gotta love the t-shirts!

tram t

via Inhabitat

Filed under: future cities, stuff on the streets, , ,


In what seems to be an attempt to infiltrate the whole of our lives, the Versace brand has moved into the travel industry with two new partnerships. The first is a collaboration announced earlier this year with the TAG Group to design and manufacture the interiors of private jets, which will be personalized from adapted pieces from Versace’s home collections. And now Fashionweek daily have pointed us towards a collaboration between Versace and the similarly glamorous, flashy brand of Lambourghini. We don’t know yet quite what this will entail (i’m envisaging car interiors covered in gold and adorned with medusa heads) but a press conference will be held this Saturday where all will be unveiled. Watch this space!

Filed under: brand extensions, ,