A year ago carmaker Audi challenged a group of world architects to map out some feasible solutions for mobility within the future urban environment. They were asked to conceive of a cityscape for 2030 where urban planning, building design, wireless digital technology and vehicle design work together for sustainable mobility.
The result of the Audi Urban Future Awards was fascinating at times, confused and a little naive at other times, but on the whole what emerged from the months of discussion between the architects and car designers were some really innovative ideas.
Fast-forward to the present day and Audi has once again challenged some of the same architects involved in the first round to further develop their ideas. We flew to Frankfurt to meet with Jurgen Mayer of J Mayer H, the Berlin firm that won the first round, to discover how his ideas have evolved since.
Design Talks. Last year you participated and won the Audi competition to envisage a future cityscape where cars, buildings and the city work together for cleaner and more harmonious mobility. How have you developed the idea since?
Jurgen Mayer. The fairytale we developed for the Audi Urban Future Awards was to find what are the potentials for the city of the future. We call it a fairytale, as there seems to be an uncanny agreement between governments, car companies, us architects – we all agree on a common goal. This isn’t normal as there is always someone who doesn’t necessarily agree!
DT. Does this mean you’re sticking to the same premise as your proposal for round one of the competition?
JM. Yes but it is a development that needs a network of support from the city who have to be open to it, mobile phone providers have to help and so on. We are now working with all the various groups within Audi to see what are the resonances of this idea.
DT. How willing are car companies to embrace new ideas on transport and mobility?
JM. Ultimately they know they have to move from being a car company to mobility providers. This means not only providing cars, but other mobility solutions like hot spots in cities, putting the power from the car into an elevator and other forms of transportation that are especially crucial to our ageing society. It is about looking away from micro mobility to becoming mobility providers and this is something that a company like Audi can do.
DT. This is quite a utopian notion but how would this commercially work for a company like Audi?
JM. That is their business but if you create an all-inclusive mobility system such as some airlines like Lufthansa have, then you become a member of a mobility system. They can even create membership systems that you can feel comfortable with and you trust and are available for all forms of mobility.
DT. Do you feel the discussions have now become more serious?
JM. There is a very good dynamic. What is interesting is that Audi really does want to create a relationship with us. They are also involved with a wider network of people on this subject, including MIT, to look at where these ideas can go and how they can further develop.
DT. When we spoke a year ago you had some reservations about how open Audi was, especially its design department, in letting you in so to speak. Has this aspect changed?
JM. Yes they were secretive but now I understand the car industry much more and it has to be guarded. But yes there is much more of a dialogue now. It took them a while to open up but now we’re having very serious discussions.
DT. Your initial proposal still championed the car as a mode of individual transport. Have you reconsidered this?
JM. Yes you don’t have a personal car anymore; it is like a taxi system. We pushed it much further especially as to what the car means – as status symbol and so on – and that it is more about being a mobility provider. It has become more of a chart of what are the shifting paradigms. There are complex sets of new ideas we’ve developed.
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