Celebrated designer Darren Palmer creates an incredible environment in an aircraft hangar for a very special Audi evening.
"Transforming a working helicopter hangar into a magical space for one night is no small task, but one which leading interior designer Darren Palmer took to with relish."
Photography Ken Butti
The brief was to create ‘an amazing space’ at a ‘special’ venue on Hamilton Island during AHIRW. Sounds simple enough, particularly given the number of spectacularly beautiful locations around the island. But bringing his eye for interior design to an existing space on the island would have been too simple for Audi and Darren Palmer.
The location, as it turned out, was one of the working aircraft hangars at Hamilton Island Airport, and the brief suddenly took on a very different level of difficulty for Daren and the team charged with turning it into the aforementioned ‘amazing space’.
The brief also called for the location and plans for the evening to be kept a secret, with only a handful of people aware of the venue and plans for the evening right up until the night. Guests would not know where they were going right up until the evening, with a fleet of Audis transferring them from their accommodation to a ‘secret location on the island’. So, no pressure at all!
“It was a bit of a shock initially,’ says Audi ambassador and celebrated designer, Darren Palmer. “I was thrilled to be asked to create something special for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, but this wasn’t what I had in mind initially,” he laughs.
But that initial surprise quickly changed to a feeling of challenge to transform a very industrial space, full of helicopters, functioning workshops and aviation parts, into a stunning venue to host an exclusive dinner in keeping with the very high standards associated with AHIRW.
The process of coming up with a plan was reasonably quick says Darren, who took little more than week to take the brief on board, and formulate his ideas after that first ‘surprising’ site inspection.
“The sheer size of the space was something I had to consider from the outset,” says Darren “ and particularly the height of the ceiling. It needed something to soften the area, given that it was all industrial materials,” he says.
The risk was that such an enormous area could appear cavernous and lack the desired amount of warmth and intimacy required, but there was also the question of adding an Audi R8 as something of an automotive sculpture and what hangar would be complete without a helicopter as well – just to make things interesting. So the size was practical consideration, but without the guests getting the feeling that they were ‘lost’ in such a large area.
The question of the massive ceiling height was solved through the use of island vegetation, combined with massive ‘cages’ that house the lighting to create unique island ‘chandeliers’. This not only brought the ceiling height down visually, but softened the area and tied in with the island venue.
Long sheets of material sealed of the actual dining area and softened the space, while the four long tables were covered in black quilted table clothes – reminiscent of the stitching found in Audi RS models’ upholstery.
A media wall with 3D finish was set up in one corner of the room with historical Audi photographs adorning the background and the famous Audi four rings lit up on the stage.
The effect was extraordinary, the assembled guests suitably impressed when the giant hangar doors were opened to reveal the custom designed space within.
“I’m really happy with the way it’s all come together,” said a relieved but nervous Darren Palmer ahead of the night. “It’s one of the more unusual spaces I’ve had to work with, but the end result I hope has the desired effect of being something unique for AHIRW.”
The pressure of producing something not before done on Hamilton Island for AHIRW was significant, but that initial vision on seeing the hangar was born out by the reaction of the 120 guests on seeing the striking interior. The element of surprise and the unique concept of venue were not lost on the guests – the effect was dramatic to say the least. Undoubtedly a ‘wow’ moment.
Inside, Channel 7 news anchor Melissa Doyle introduced Hamilton Island CEO, Glenn Burke and Audi Australia Managing Director, Andrew Doyle, to greet the guests, before Darren Palmer shared some of his inspiration for the night.
The transformation from what had been a a fully functioning helicopter hangar to beautiful function space was complete. Brief met and mission accomplished.
Stunning and unique are the words that best describe yet another incredible night on Hamilton Island. The promise was always to raise the bar and come up with unique experiences for AHIRW, and yet again the promise has been delivered.