Hilton London Heathrow Airport celebrates 20th anniversary

Tuesday 17, August 2010


Hilton London Heathrow Airport celebrates 20th anniversary


Hailed as one of the UK’s most striking buildings, Hilton London Heathrow Airport proves it still has staying power, as it marks its 20th anniversary and celebrates with the opening of a new executive lounge.


Designed by Manser Associates 20 years ago, the 398 bed hotel at Heathrow Terminal 4 has attracted praise from novelist JG Ballard, Michael Palin, and has also won many architectural awards. With over 3.5 million guests since it opened in 1990, the hotel’s position is sealed as one of the most exciting hotel buildings in Britain, and as being responsible for influencing the changing face of British hotel design.


The Journey

Twenty years ago, the hotel industry had a very conservative view of design. Many hotel architects pitched their designs, but none shared the modern vision of BAA, who originally commissioned the hotel on BAA-owned land. Their attentions turned to Manser Associates, who had never designed a hotel before, but their philosophy to create simple, homely and yet exotic spaces won them their first hotel contract, worth £60 million.


Hilton London Heathrow Airport challenged the industry as one of the first modern hotels with striking, ground-breaking and original architecture. Commented on as looking more like an air hangar than a hotel, the white, five-storied parallelogram has two end walls made entirely of glass.


Designed to set it apart from its rivals, 30-meter high atrium walls consist of glass sheets hung from the roof, forming 2.8 meters of double-glazing – a key design element to soundproof the building (not even Concorde’s take off could penetrate the acoustic skin).


The building’s dramatic glazed entrance and structure gives the building a sense of grandeur and generous space. Views across the atrium reach the bar, restaurants and lifts, meaning guests can orientate themselves immediately. With half the bedrooms overlooking this main space, the arrangement allows a smaller footprint and significantly reduced costs.


The hotel is also home to Alan Jones’ Sculpture: Dancers. Twenty years ago Dancers was valued at £250,000. 


20 Years On: Upgrades

Hilton London Heathrow Airport celebrates 20 years of success with the launch of a new upgraded executive lounge. In keeping with the hotel’s modern design, a new executive lounge – by Design Coalition – opens on the first floor off the main atrium.


Seating up to 64 guests with additional Internet space, the décor sees use of a Scandinavian feel through colour (mid-blue with soft tones of gold, browns and beiges) and use of 1950s influenced furniture by Arne Jacobsen. The aim of the design is to exceed the waiting experience that guests would get in a VIP airport lounge.


Jurgen Sutherland, general manager at Hilton London Heathrow Airport, commented; “As one of the most hailed modern hotel buildings in Britain, it is important to ensure that we remain at the forefront of contemporary hotel design. Being an airport hotel means we welcome thousands of business guests a week through our doors, so a new and refreshed executive lounge was the perfect way to mark our 20th anniversary.


“As we celebrate two decades of the hotel’s success, we are proud that it has such a prominent place in architectural history and look forward to many more years as one of Britain’s most iconic and successful hotels.”


Interesting Facts

  • The hotel was designed by Michael Manser Associates and completed in November 1990 for BAA.
  • The hotel officially opened by Lord King of Wartnaby, Chairman of British Airways on 14 December 1990.
  • The hotel was completed in less than 27 months from commencement to opening.
  • The design was inspired by Foster’s Sainsbury’s Centre at the University of East Anglia, although its design fits well as an airport hotel with the overall look and feel of a an aircraft hangar.
  • The hotel has 398 bedrooms arranged in parallel blocks, connected by walkways.
  • The 242 sq. ft. parallelogram-shaped building has doubled 30 meters by 20 meters glazed walls at each end.
  • The hotel can house 210 double-decker buses.
  • The hotel is cocooned from aircraft noise.
  • JG Ballard, the author of Empire of the Sun has been quoted for saying the hotel is his ideal building: “My ideal building is the Heathrow Hilton by Michael Manser. Stunning: pure white geometry.” (JG Ballard, The Observer, 1994).
  • The most popular cocktail served at the hotel is the cosmopolitan.
  • The most unusual room service request was 27 litres of milk in a carton with two straws… there was only one guest staying in the room.
  • The most popular meals are the Dover Sole & the Hilton Classic Burger.
  • Some famous faces that have dined at the restaurant include: Lionel Richie, Lewis Hamilton, Sean Connery, Rod Stewart, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Wesley Snipes, Pierce Brosnan, & Johnny Wilkinson.



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