Ford revives Vignale

Once-upon-a-time there were carrozzieres. The highly skilled craftsmen, metalworkers and upholsters from these coachbuilders in Turin were responsible for visualising and sculpting the metal that clothed the motorcar. Depending on their size and expertise, they helped larger carmakers designs concepts, and some created exclusive one-off cars for aficionados of the motorcar.

One such carrozziere was Vignale set up in 1948 by Alfredo Vignale in Turin to collaborate mainly with local Italian carmakers Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and Ferrari.

Vignale was inspired by new fabrication techniques from the aviation industry, and by the lightweight and aerodynamic racing cars that were winning races at Mille Miglia and other circuits.

He utilised lightweight aluminium to be able to sculpt free-flowing panels with rolled edges, hand stamped louvres and contours shaped using molten alloys sanded for hours to create the perfect finish.

His small team of highly skilled craftsmen collaborated with carmakers to create low-volume variants of their main production cars like the Fiat Gamine, Samantha and Eveline. They also worked on unique vehicles such as the Ferrari 212 and 250 and Fiat Maserati 3500.

Ford purchased Vignale in 1973, but has only now decided to reincarnate the marque. The first production model to benefit from the Vignale treatment is the Mondeo, to be joined later this year by the latest S-Max.

The exterior benefits from a high-quality metallic paint finishes, special chrome trim, and 18-inch alloys. The cabin offers a peaceful sanctuary thanks to upgraded sound insulation and active noise cancellation. Emphasis here is on the detail – so that all our touch points, and whatever the driver’s eye can catch, is encased in luxurious soft Windsor leather all with hexagonal quilting and ‘tuxedo’ stitching.

The Vignale cars will sit at the pinnacle of the brand. The design team is also creating a range of accessories to complement the cars.

We caught up with Chris Bird, Ford of Europe director of design, in Rome at one of the new Ford Stores.

DT. You have had Vignale in your archives for some years, ever since you purchased Ghia in 1973. Why reincarnate it now?

CB. When we started looking at creating a more premium line we realised that we needed to take a strategy that was really unique. The decision came from us in design. The Vignale team were a small group of highly skilled craftsmen, experimenting with new technology and materials and their execution. There has always been a connection with Italy and the US – the history of Ford and Ghia, for instance, goes back a long way. So we said why don’t we look at the Italian aspect of it – try a contemporary interpretation of what is actually quite a traditional industry.

DT. How do you intend to re-imagine the Vignale marque for the present day and for Ford?

CB. We are deeply interested in what is going on particularly with the Italian fashion and furniture brands. The fact that they are dealing with this idea of how you take traditional craftsmanship, or Italian values, but move out of the area of classic and into the contemporary and modern. It is summed up by the buzz at events like Milan’s Salone del Mobile where a lot of the forward thinking design is connected to Italian craft values.

DT. How did you work with Vignale to achieve this?

CB. We don’t have the funds or expertise of Mercedes or BMW for the fine execution and detailing, so here we are not doing something generic that has been seen and done before. Vignale gave us a chance to come up with an execution that is Italian, and to utilise the expertise here.

DT. So far you have incorporated the Vignale concept into your production models starting with the Mondeo and S-Max….

CB. The S-Max concept, in particular, shows the direction we’re going for the time being especially with the unique colour and trim options. We’re looking at taking the whole quilting idea and expressing it in new ways and applying it to new areas such as on the arm rest. We’re looking at different quilting pattern opportunities that are more contemporary. There is a lot more to come.

DT. Are you saying you have plans for a stand-alone Vignale sub-brand?

CB. The S-Max (success) will hopefully drive the size and the seriousness of where Vignale is going. At the moment we don’t have this in our plans but I’m hoping the great work that design does on future Vignales will lead to making this happen.

Nargess Banks

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Cars and design unite at Salone del Mobile in Milan

Amongst the many, many creative festivals around the world, the Salone del Mobile has maintained its position as one of the most significant. When it comes to spotting the latest trends in design, in new materials, in concepts, in people, the Milan design week in April is the place to visit. Here, the city transforms into a gallery with neighbourhoods opening their doors to welcome this creative energy.

As Design Talks has reported in the past, some of the more enlightened car companies have clocked onto the importance of participating here. Last year, for instance, Lexus sponsored three designers and a group of emerging creatives for a very intriguing display.

This year, in the Area Sciesa Tre in Via Amatore Sciesa, BMW will be displaying its latest collaborative work with the award-winning designer Alfredo Häberli. Under the banner precision and poetry the duo have pooled their shared passion for technical innovation and contemporary materials to create a multi-layered, poetically inspired installation that unites the visions and values of tomorrow’s mobility with very personal perspectives.

Häberli’s own recollections and experience of cars have inspired this piece. Against the background of highly automated control, the designer imbues the driving experience with new meaning and renders it tangible within an impressive spatial dimension.

At the centre of his journey into the immediate future of mobility is a large-scale, deliberately abstract object – the form cites the lightness of forward motion and design addresses pivotal values of future automotive design. The idea is that if technically everything is feasible, the luxury of movement can focus on the core statement, and mobility becomes carefree and communicative.

‘Alfredo Häberli approaches our design philosophy with an ingenious passion and conceptual clout,’ says Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group design director. ‘I always enjoy philosophising with Alfredo on design and mobility, and I’m delighted to see these ideas now taking shape in an installation as well.’

Elsewhere, sister marque MINI has teamed up with Spanish artist and designer Jaime Hayon for a glimpse into urban mobility in the future. On the basis of the new MINI Citysurfer, a flexible, individual electric kick scooter concept, Hayon creates a fanciful experience world that showcases his personal take on future mobility, on exhibit at the Laboratorio Bergognone in Via Bergognone 26.

Finally, Japanese carmaker Lexus will be showing a Journey of the Senses at Carrozzeria Tonreria in the Zona Tortona. The installation sees French product and space designer Philippe Nigro creating a setting featuring food by the celebrated Japanese Michelin star chef Hajime Yoneda. The idea is to stimulate the senses, enabling people to experience unexpected new connections and insights. Sounds exciting…

Salone del Mobile is from 14 – 19 April in locations throughout Milan.

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

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Notes from Salone del Mobile Milan

Design lovers flocked to Milan earlier this month for Salone del Mobile, the world’s most significant design fair that also marks the unofficial start of the design season. The main event at Fiera Milano is definitely worth a visit, but it is away from the crowded exhibition hall that some of the more exciting events take place. Pockets of Milan come alive during the week with designers and artists from all around the world exhibiting a mix of critical and avant-garde, fun and frivolous work. Milan’s old districts, with their elegant and slightly crumbling buildings, sit in contrast forming a perfect setting for the contemporary work on show.

Palazzo Clerici, in the heart of Milan’s bohemian Brera Quarter, hosted a number of events to respond to this sumptuous former residence and frescos by famed Italian painter Tiepolo. Taking over the first floor of the palace, Islands by London design studio Raw-edges offers a new take on a variety of domestic spaces. Working with materials firm Caesarstone the exhibits propose to reshape the typical interior arrangement by positioning the working surfaces as the binding element of its design. The main focus is on the kitchen and the significance of the preparation of food for surfaces that respond more to our emotional needs.

Work With Me People III by Bart Hess is both fun and intriguing, inviting the audience to take part in creating the Dutch artist’s other-worldly materials – in this case rubber. Hess worked with MU art to create a mock-laboratory replete with protection masks and rubber gloves. His futuristic materials and textures are designed to push the boundaries of textile design.

Meanwhile Studio Minale-Maeda showed Keystones. It reduces the design of furniture to a single compact connector, which can be 3D printed on location so that only the most essential part of the furniture needs to be shipped.

By Porta Genova, another old Milan district hosting the fair, carmaker Mini revealed Parallels, a visually absorbing light and sound installation. Collaborating with London-based art and design collective United Visual Artists, it sets out to explore the interaction between man and machine. Parallels is a conceptual take on Mini Connected, the company’s latest in-car infotainment system that links the car to the driver, home and office with the interface feeding information silently through colour coded circles of light.

In Milan UVA explores connectivity also through light. Rings, fixed to the wall a meter apart, project a tunnel of light to create cylindrical bodies of light. We enter the installation, walk amongst and inside these light tunnels to experience the quite magical atmospheric world they create. The cylinder uses motion sensors to engage us in interactive dialogue, and our movements trigger feedback in the form of changes in colour – from diamond white via turquoise to a forceful dark blue – and sound effects.

Around the corner Turkish Stones worked with designers from Turkey, Italy and Japan for Marble Across Time. Using natural stone, this is a choreographed journey through time that begins in Turkey, passes through Italy as the symbol of contemporary society and ends in Japan as a place of progress.

Here Aziz Sariyer addresses the past with an allegorical kaleidoscope to keep visitors at a distance so that the past becomes a memory. ‘Past time is indeed the integrity of all the moments lived,’ says the Turkish designer of his Passage installation where ‘the mind, perceives the integrated moments as past time.’

Fabio Novembre’s Here I Am represents the now. ‘I live, I love, I’m happy. Present is not only a tense, in many languages it’s also meant as a gift. Live your present, the sky is the limit,’ says the Italian architect and designer. And Yoshioka Tokujin’s marble plate concludes the journey. A table of the Universe balances hanging between thin acrylic bands. The Japanese artist and designer describes it as a massive stone that has been freed from gravity and is free, floating in the air

Salone del Mobile runs from the 8-13 April at venues throughout Milan. Read about Lexus at the show here.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

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Lexus at Salone del Mobile Milan

Japanese carmaker Lexus sponsored three international designers to interpret the theme Amazing in Motion at Salone del Mobile (8-13 April) this year. The impressive exhibition took place in the bohemian Brera Quarter, home to the Accademia delle Belle Arti, and away from the main crowded Salone at Fiera Milano.

Here Nao Tamura’s Interconnection looks back at the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The designer relies on natural motion to study our relationship with nature. The floating purple petal-like discs hang from the ceiling on thin threads, individually swaying to the natural flow of air as visitors pass by. The impact has an almost ethereal quality.

Tangible Media Group’s Transform explores the link between design and technology. The US design team worked closely with professor Hiroshi Ishii from MIT Media Lab to interpret the car’s hybrid drive where kinetic energy from braking is captured to charge the battery. Here sensors capture the energy from our movement to shift a thousand pins up and down in an almost surreal wave-like motion. Professor Ishii added extra theatre on the opening day by playing conductor to this orchestra.

We Dance by Fabio Novembre employs ‘technology to express the movement of this dance,’ says the Italian designer. Here he presents a mirrored sphere – almost like a giant disco ball – that is surrounded by shards of pointed glass and is cocooning an entity that represents the beginning of life, and ‘draws a direct connection to the cosmic motion of planets and galaxies’ says Novembre.

The carmaker also featured work by the 12 winners of the Lexus Design Awards in Milan. The international competition, now in its second year, is aimed at emerging designers. Two contrasting visions were made into physical concepts for the show. Answering to the theme of curiosity, and inspired by childhood, Sebastian Scherer‘s hand blown glass bubbles Iris have a magical quality, whilst James Fox has taken a more practical and rustic view with his Macian concept.

Mentored by games creator Robin Hunicke, the German designer was after creating ‘lightness and play’ for Iris. The bubbles here are individually hand blown, mimicking the concept of children’s playing bubbles, so that each has a unique shape and an individual colour that transforms with changing light. The end result is a magical installation that really does ‘capture a moment in time, so fleeting, so unexpected’ as described by its creators.

Fox’s Macian concept works on the idea of foraging, in this case for materials. Working with mentor Arthur Huang, a sustainability expert and director of Miniwiz, the British 3D designer has literally created a den-building kit. The idea is ‘to encourage children to get in touch with nature, to encourage curiosity by engaging with the environment,’ he says. The Macian is a set of tools, neatly packed in a backpack that can ensemble a den in any wooded area. There is even a guide to help inspire a variety of designs. All you need are a few wooden rods and his tough plastic parts can create a durable skeleton to attach the rainproof canvas top.

Elsewhere runners up architect and designer Mami Kim from Mamikim & Co partnered with fine artist Joe Hardy to create Piximot, a digital construction that unveils the technology and science behind electronic gadgets – the idea is to engage future generation to connect with the object.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read about other car brands at Salone del Mobile.

Read our previous reports from Salone del Mobile Milan

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK 
Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

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Design competition: Pop-up club

With not long to go before Milan Salone del Mobile our inbox is swamped with news on exhibitors at the coveted yearly show. The latest is an interesting competition by drinks giant Heineken who has challenged a group of young designers to create a collaborative nightclub based on the theme changing perspectives.

The 19 designers from Milan, New York, Sao Paulo and Tokyo, chosen from a range of different disciplines, will create a pop-up club at the fair – the conclusion of a year of discovery between these emerging designers, Heineken and input from clubbers.

The venue will feature a flexible, origami-influenced structure, accommodating the flow of guests and an interactive bar. Lighting will be a key feature – responsive surfaces and spaces at the venue will react with different lights to give a multitude of perspectives, encouraging social interaction between guests.

Meet the design team

The club will be at Via Privata Gaspare Bugatti 3, Zona Tortona, Milan from 17-20 April 2012.  For more visit Milan Salone del Mobile. Read our reviews from Milan in 2011 here.

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