How ideas from RCA students for a megacity taxi in 2040 can impact on our future

Discussions on smart cities tend to miss the cultural side – the various social landscapes, which is why these designs by Royal College of Art Intelligent Mobility students – asked to imagine a taxi in a speculative megacity of 2040 – are worth looking into. A couple offer some sophisticated critical design thinking too with ideas that may have seemed impossible dreams before the pandemic made all things impossible possible. Take a closer look here

Young designers explore the unexpected in Milan

Ecological packaging material made from seaweed, an instinctive children’s toy-set to promote the imagination, modular clothing that shifts according to shape and desire, and a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time, these were just some of the intriguing ideas presented by a team of young creatives in Milan.

This is the annual Lexus Design Awards, an ambitious project for the Milan Salone del Mobile created as a way of nourishing emerging international talent with typically thousands of entries from all over the world. This year the Japanese carmaker took over a former metal factory in the Tortona design district to exhibit projects by the 12 finalists.

The winning project, Agar Plasticity by AMAM, explores sustainable packaging using a gelatinous material made from red marine algae. The young Japanese studio worked with British designer Max Lamb to explore the material. Its flexibility means that it can be used for both cushioning and packaging; it can be ecologically disposed of and won’t harm marine line if it should drift into the sea.

Elsewhere, Myungsik Jan was inspired by the Korean ceremony doljabi when on a child’s first birthday a range of objects are placed in front of the toddler. What they choose is said to reveal their career. DADA is a modern interpretation utilising a range of natural blocks, cylinders and fabrics to also entice the child’s curiosity and imagine their future path.

Shape Shifters by Angelëne offers a new form of textile cutting for adaptable clothing to promote personalisation and reduce consumption and waste. With a masters in material futures from Central Saint Martins, studio founder Angelene Laura Fenuta looks at how modular principles can help create dynamic garments with embedded silhouette versatility.

We were also intrigued by Trace, a project by RCA graduate twins Ayaskan. This is essentially a clock that visualises the present by marking the passing of time through a liquid that changes colour under ultra-violet rays. Conceptualised by the London-based Turkish studio, here a UV light beam rotates around the face of the clock to mark every second, minute and hour, leaving a trace of colour as time sweeps by, then fading back to transparency.

Finally, Plants-Skin by Hiroto Yoshizoe is a moderately permeable ‘intelligent’ flowerpot that is made from coloured mortar coated with hydro-chromic ink. When the surface absorbs water the white ink becomes transparent and colour appears, the gradation revealing the level of moisture, so as to indicate when the plant requires feeding.

Nargess Banks

Read the full Milan 2016 report here

Find out more about the Salone Internazionale del Mobile for 2017 here

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RCA Show: designers rethink the automobile

A flat-pack IKEA-style relief vehicle, a car born through the sound of music, a self-healing vehicle and a 21st century interpretation of the ancient burial ritual – these were some of the more inspired ideas at the Royal College of Art class of 2015 Vehicle Design graduation show.

As the car evolves to be so much more than a mode of transport, tasked to be a home and office on the move, to seamlessly connect our worlds and to do so ecologically, students of transport design are expected to offer ideas that explore mobility far and beyond the metal sculpture, the package.

The second chapter in the life of the automobile offers an exciting opportunity for new dialogues – multiple narratives for the car. Sadly not all emerging designers are capable of such speculative thinking. The RCA, though, is renowned for nurturing some leading talent in all spheres of creativity, so it was good to see many of the students working on ideas that could help form the future of mobility.

No Infrastructure Needed by Simon Haynes is a simple self-assembly flat-pack vehicle visualised mainly as a relief vehicle for places where there are no viable infrastructure for manufacturing. It is also assessing new manufacturing processes ‘like 4D printing and examining how this will affect the design,’ he says.

As a critic of our attitude to death, Limbo, Last Journey is an intriguing concept that imagines the old burial rituals for the modern day. The creator, Florian Kainz believes dying is the greatest sin of our times. This exposed vessel, therefore, parades the deceased through the streets to its final destination, highlighting their life stories through projections on the vehicle and on the road.

Tianqin Bao celebrates the dents and damages, what is seen as flaws on the car. His Scar is a self-healing vehicle that digitally maps out and repairs parts in 3D printing so that the they become design features thus, ‘nurturing a long-lasting bond between man and car,’ he says.

Farhana Safa’s Kinesis tool works with liquid metal shifting shape when a current is applied, with, she explains, ‘electro-sculpting promoting exploration of forms, producing unified structures and surfaces’ for seamless exterior and interior design.

Elsewhere, Yibo Wu turns his autonomous vehicle into a playground for adults, Sepehr Amirseyed imagines an autonomous Bugatti super car that maintains the value of such a precious product once the traditional car qualities have given way to driverless mobility, and Carl Craven’s luxurious exploration yacht will see the super rich sail to exotic, forbidden territories in comfort.

Finally, in Simplicity Meet Passion Tony Lien explores how the sound and vibration of his violin can help visualise a more harmonised vehicle shape whilst simultaneously capturing the spirit of the music. The wire and plastic sculpture is, he says, about ‘visualising the bow of a violin and documenting each movement as the music progresses’

Nargess Banks


Read our past RCA Show reports here

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Vertical cities and urban villages

Can the car be more than a vehicle that takes you from A to B? This has been a subject much discussed in recent years. I remember talking endlessly with Chris Bangle, the former design boss at BMW, on this very subject – something that has been at the core of his design thinking (remember GINA?) – at a time when few car companies dared or even cared to venture into anything that signified a real change from the conventional automobile. There is more urgency now to address these issues and we’re seeing some interesting ideas floating around, and a degree of commitment from some of the larger manufactures.

Still, we’re a long way off from truly shifting our mentality. It should be up to the emerging generation of car designers to look at the profession as more than merely refining surfaces and creating yet another metallic object for individual consumption. It all feels so tired. Thankfully there are some who are shifting the paradigm.

The other day I met a couple of students studying Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in London who have started some interesting discussions. Yuan Fang feels that the vehicle needs to evolve to fit into the high-rise, densely populated cities of today. Zishi Han is looking at how the car can feed something back to the shantytown communities. These are college projects, but raise interesting themes on the role of the car in our future lives.

Yuan was inspired by her hometown of Shenzhen, a dense vertical megacity north of Hong Kong that was a village until 1979. Now with 15 million inhabitants, and a population density higher than Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong, Shenzhen is the most crowded city in China. ‘These tall buildings shape the city into different layers,’ she explains. People have adapted to this new vertical existence spending most of their time indoors. She wants to change the form and function of the vehicle to harmonise with its environment.

Zishi grew up in Beijing where rapid economic growth has created a vast urban village – or chéng zh?ng cún, the Chinese slum. These mostly former rural villages have been swallowed up by expanding cities and house the poor and transient that, he says, ‘tend to keep their original texture.’

His idea is for an open-source system based around vehicles that improve the living conditions of urban villagers, and take advantage of what the area can offer including local material, skills and labour. He explains: ‘The system will bring urban villagers, car manufactures and the government together using low-tech production methods and locally-sourced material to produce a vehicle and dwelling in the urban village by locals for locals.’ Zishi is now working towards formulating an instruction for design and manufacturing, as well as a vehicle prototype made in his urban village.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read about the Audi Urban Future Initiative here.

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London Design Festival 2012

The London Design Festival opened yesterday at its main hub, the V&A. The festival sees a host of designers, showrooms, design organisations and retailers participating in over 200 events across the city. For a dramatic entrance to the V&A, designer Dominic Harris of Cinimod Studio has collaborated with lighting specialist Philips to create a temporary lighting installation in the underground tunnel entrance to the museum.

Inside the walls of the fabulous museum, conceptual designer Rolf Sachs has responded to the grandeur of the building’s Henry Cole Wing Grand Staircase with an evocative installation that fully exploits the soaring height of the ornate space. Here individual drops of ink are released from the great height into a vast glass tank of illuminated liquid, exploding into organic colour clouds; each one different and mesmerising in form.

Elsewhere in the building, champagne brand Veuve Clicquot has challenged Keiichi Matsuda to create a digital installation called Prism. It is made up from a series of screens through which fast moving data streams are visualised and coaxed into unfolding shapes and patterns of light and colour. It represents an alternative view of London, exposing unseen data flows in the capital through a sculptural, immersive interface suspended in the V&A’s uppermost cupola.

The American Hardwood Export Council set Royal College of Art design products students a brief to design and produce a functional chair using hardwood. Under the leadership of RCA tutors and designers Sebastian Wrong and Harry Richardson, the use of wood as a material and its life-cycle impact had to be taken into consideration by the students. The resulting designs were developed into working prototypes with the help of Sir Terence Conran’s furniture manufacturing firm Benchmark.

Away from the hub highlights include 19 Greek Street, a new venue that opened this month to be London’s hub for craft and sustainability in design. This six-floor Victorian townhouse houses an outpost of ESPASSO, the US specialists in modernist and contemporary Brazilian design.

For the first time, French crystal makers Baccarat exhibits its creations at designjunction, presenting Vase-O-Rama, a new collection in collaboration with Lausanne’s school of art and design ECAL alongside designs by renowned names such as Philippe Starck and Patricia Urquiola.

A new exhibition space has opened on 4 Cromwell Place opposite the V&A. The space is showcasing 12 new and experimental design projects, including Design Marketo, Haptic Thought and the Wonder Cabinets of Europe.

Elsewhere the 2012 African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora Festival celebrates the breadth, quality and originality of black talent throughout all creative disciplines from the UK and overseas.

The three events of the AACDD Festival during the Festival showcase art installations and themed projects spanning architecture, interior design, furniture, lighting, textiles, glass, ceramics, accessories, fashion, and jewellery, as well as ?ne art, sculpture, graphic design, photography, ?lm, media and multimedia.

The commercial cornerstone of the festival is once again based at 100% Design in Earls Court. The country’s largest single-site design exhibition can be a struggle to get through, but it does give an interesting overview of the more commercial side of the industry.

Elsewhere there is 100% Norway – marking its ninth year here – which as the name suggests showcases pioneering design from the the country. This year it has relocated to a new design district in Tent in East London. Designers include Hallgier Homstvedt, Vibeke Skar, Magnus Pettersen, Caroline Olsson and Transplant as well as a number of the country’s leading manufacturers such as Northern Lighting, Tonning and Wik & Walsoe.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

The London Design Festival runs from 14-23 September at venues across the capital.

Read our report on Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum that runs as part of the LDF. Also read our highlights from the LDF 2011.

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