When British Airways was refurbishing one of their Lounges in T1 Heathrow they encountered an architectural problem in the form of a large air-conditioning vent in the middle of the space which couldn’t be moved. The architects asked Artwise if we could come up with an art solution. Loving a challenge, we created an Artist Brief and contacted the Dutch design collective Droog who suggested their designer Frank Tjepkema for the job.  


Tjep (as he is known) came with the brilliant solution to transform the air conditioning vent into a feature rather than try and hide it, in his own words:



“The space has a resemblance to an Italian piazza in its arrangement and proportions: the central position and circular shape of the bar, the symmetrical architecture, the function of the space as a meeting point for travellers.” He goes on: “To accentuate that resemblance (Airco Tree) transforms the air conditioning vent (which already has the proportions of a tree trunk) into a tree. Not literally a tree, but an abstraction of a tree that fits the environment. The final object is a synthesis of nature and technology, the metaphor of a tree also refers to the function of the air conditioning that provides air to the space. Finally the structure will reflect light into the space.”


From 1996-2012 Artwise built and managed the British Airways Art Collection (ultimately amassing over 2000 works of art), curated the lounges globally and commissioned over 50 artists to do site-specific bespoke work. In addition to Frank Tjepkema for Droog’s award-winning design commission for T1, other notable commissions include: two wall drawings by Sol LeWitt, an audio walk by Janet Cardiff and award-winning sculptures by Andy Goldsworthy and Troika.


Airco Tree was the recipient of the Dutch Design of Year, Interior Design Category, 2004