Microlino is an electric city bubble car fit for the 21st century

The Microlino by Swiss maker Micro is a tiny electric vehicle imagined entirely for city commutes and short distance travel. Its shape is inspired by the bubble cars of the 1940s and 50s – think of the brilliant L’Oeuf Electrique by French industrial designer Paul Arzens or BMW’s Isetta – with its single front door design which allows you to step right onto the pavement when cross parked.

The Microlino can transport three adults and their luggage, will speed up to 56mph and there is an option of a 77 or 124-mile range battery. Essentially, this bubble will make city commutes easy and (I suspect) hugely fun. It would be hard not to smile if you saw one drive by. To me, it represents a simple and relevant design idea.

Read the full story here

Car design trends from Paris Motor Show 2010

The mood at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris could be summarised in the few words uttered by Peugeot’s design director Gilles Vidal. ‘We are going through big changes in the automotive world,’ the visionary French designer said as he guided me though 200 years of Peugeot’s research and development displayed on the stand.

‘Progress in this area won’t only be through engines and technological solutions, but about making our cars lighter, more efficient in terms of recycling,’ he said before concluding: ‘This is a global effort.’

We are in the second centenary of the motorcar and it is about time we reinvent the automobile to perform according to 21st century needs. This means taking a much more dramatic view of not just design, but as Vidal rightly noted, the entire package.

The good news is that at the final international show of the year, there appeared to be a genuine shift towards this way of thinking. This is still a new adventure, but judging by the array of innovative concept and production cars on display, perhaps we have reached a turning point in the life of the automobile. And the vast halls of Porte de Versailles showed that there are multiple solutions for clean, green driving – some clever, some bananas.

Renault and Nissan were one of the first to commit to electric driving. It was therefore good to see much progress in this area with the French marque showing three electric cars: the 2011 production Twizy city runabout, the Zoe and DeZir concepts. Sister company Nissan beat many of its competitors earlier in the year when it unveiled the four-seater production Leaf electric car. At Paris the Japanese firm unveiled a brand new electric concept, the flexible Townpod urban vehicle.

Audi and BMW presented more electric variants to join their respective eco sub-brands – Audi the e-tron Spyder and BMW announced plans to build a car based on its Vision Efficient Dynamic concept. This and the Megacity Vehicle (see our earlier report New Urban Mobility) will form part of the firm’s Project-I electric sub-brand.

Another clever proposition came via Porsche who announced its commitment to produce the exciting 918 Spyder hybrid supercar for 2013 first seen at the Geneva Motor Show in March. This is a beautiful piece of sculpture – the notes almost perfect. To marry this, speed and ecological is how the German carmaker sees its response to clean driving. ‘The 918 shows that you don’t have to compromise a sportscar by being ecological,’ noted design director Michael Mauer.

Away from the green theme, but worth noting is the Audi Quattro concept based on the fantastic original 1984 Sport Quattro with its iconic boxy and angular shape. Design director Wolfgang Egger explained to redesign such an car ‘you have to move away from the car and just keep the essence of its purity, the impression. This was a very angular car, but the modelling technology we have now allows for more dramatic surfacing,’ which he sees as the modern impression of the Quattro.

However, despite some excellent thoughts on clean mobility, it was down to the small sportscar maker Lotus to steel most headlines by unveiling six new cars – three sportcars, a coupé, a saloon and a city car concept. This is part of its young boss Dany Bahar’s multi-model ambitious plans to enter more segments.

Luckily design director Donato Coco promised that all the cars will remain in the tradition of Lotus design. ‘This is the most exciting British brand in the sense of originality and eccentricity,’ said the Italian ex-Ferrari designer. ‘To me this means the capacity to assembly unexpected elements, materials and shapes. This is what we have done in these cars – assemble a lot of innovation in a scheme that looks really classic.’

Read the full report and interviews with the designers at the show which appeared in Wallpaper*.


Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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London Design Festival 2010

London came alive in September with the London Design Festival – the annual event seeing new and established designers showcase their work around the capital city. The exhibits ranged from discarded picture frames draped elegantly over the V&A steps, to a plaster cast bench inspired by the museum’s impressive Cast Court collection, and robots tracing messages in beams light over Trafalgar Square.

Stuart Haygarth’s installation, featuring discarded off cuts of colourful picture frames (from framing company John Jones) that adorn one of the grand internal marble staircases inside the V&A is an inspired piece of work that is not only visually splendid, but the rhythm created by the pattern somewhat theraputic.

Stuart Haygarth Framed ©Susan Smart

British designer Max Lamb created a plaster cast bench based on the facade of the 1840 Sydney Smirke-designed HSBC private bank headquarters at 78 St James Street in London. Inspired by the museum’s Cast Courts, Lamb used traditional casting techniques to create this seemingly plain structure which sits in complete contrast to its elaborate surroundings.

Max Lamb's bench for London Design Festival ©Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Michael Anastassiades’ Kinetic Light is a pendulum light designed for the museum’s Norfolk House Music room – the perpetual rhythm of the hanging arm holding a glass light ball is meant to evoke a distant age when music sought to create the harmony of the spheres.

Michael Anastassiades Kinetic Light ©Susan Smart Photography

Polish designer Oskar Zieta created a visually exciting installation for the V&A courtyard. Zieta took a starting point from the curves of the pool in the V&A’s John Madjeski Garden to create a moving structure with his FiDU technique – created by his company Prozessdesign – that uses compressed air to inflates steel structures. Using steel polished to a high gloss, this large-scale installation reflects the shape of the stairs leading to the garden’s pool.

Blow & Roll by Oskar Zieta ©Susan Smart

The Trafalgar Square installation came from German duo Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram – best known for their experimental work at Prada and Moroso – who created OUTRACE, a kind of pop-up factory in London’s big tourist spot. Working with eight large-scale industrial robots, loaned by Audi, each equipped with a cluster of 24 LED lights, Outrace web audience could interact with the installation live, the robots then tracing their text messages in beams of light over the square. It was quite a spectacular site contrasting against the backdrop that includes Nelson’s Column and the surrounding museums.

Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram’s Outrace at London Design Festival ©David Levene

Other notable highlights included the colourful display by Danish textile design firm Kvadrat. Designer Cristian Zuzunaga has taken some of the most famous skylines in the world and turned them into overlapping shapes and colours as part of his ‘Squaring of the Circle’ collection for Kvadrat.

Kvadrat textile collection in collaboration with Cristian Zuzunaga Install ©Tom Fallon

In this series of work Zuzunaga is exploring the ideal image of a city through large architectural shapes in muted colours. From a distance the material reveals either a block of colour, a skyline, crops of it – all depending on how the curtain is draped or folded. Complementing the larger swathes of flat weave material is a series of cushion, each unique, with close-up geometric pixels of colour depicting very small sections of the buildings featured in the curtains.

As part of LDF, carmaker Mini unveiled the Scooter E Concept. The electric zero-emission two wheeler has been conceptualised in two forms – with two seats and in sporty single seat format. Showcasing BMW’s overall eco-ambitions, reported earlier on DT (New Urban Mobility), the vehicle is powered by an electric motor integrated in the rear wheel.  The motor’s lithium-ion battery can be recharged at any conventional power socket using an on-board charging cable. We will report more on this as part of the Paris Motor Show in October.

Mini Scooter E Concept

This year’s LDF medal was awarded to Thomas Heatherwick for his contribution to design. Ben Evans, festival director, said of the designer of this year’s British Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo: ‘He defies definition whether he is working in in the fields of architecture, product design, sculpture, and urban planning.

‘He has developed a considerable reputation for his practice, creating a range of extraordinary objects and buildings; from rolling bridges to seaside cafes to spinning chairs.’

For our report on the student corner visit Emerging Designers from the London Design Festival.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks & Andrea Klettner
The London Design Festival ran from 18 to 26 September at venues around London.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©