The world of the automobile is rapidly evolving – no longer is it sufficient to build reliable, well-engineered machines. Now cars need to be thoughtfully designed to express current trends and they have to at least be seen to be relevant. And it helps to be spotted mingling with the creative world. Car designers are forever emphasising their involvement with other design disciplines, of how they keep on top of trends and are involved in a discourse within the wider creative community. Rarely an interview takes place without a designer mentioning the Salone del Mobile, the coveted annual design show held in April in Milan.
It is here where they gain inspiration for their work, and unsurprisingly they have long wished to get involved. Shows like Milan don’t bring immediate financial gains, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a bit of creative kudos behind you, even in the hard sell world of the automobile, and the car world has wised up to this.
This year the list of carmakers present at Milan included the likes of BMW, MINI, Lexus, Renault and Hyundai. What they exhibited – in other words how conceptual they’ve been willing to go – and the choice of designer partnership reveals a great deal about where they wish to position themselves. Some showed a more daring side, others stayed close to the world they know best.
Renault partnered with British designer Ross Lovegrove (who’s studio happens to be a stone-throw-away from Design Talks) for Twin’Z. This is a pretty straightforward interpretation of a car – the blue four-seater sculpture inspired in colour by the painter Yves Klein mirroring the virtues of the planet, says Lovegrove. Inside is a single unit; there is no dashboard with all information displayed on a smartphone.
Lexus stayed close to its Japanese heritage by collaborating with space designer Akihisa Hirata and renowned architect Toyo Ito for Creating Amazing. This is a much more conceptual affair – the space offers multi-sensory experiences to highlight the connection between roads, humans, wind, and water thus challenging the viewer to imagine the cities of the future.
A mix of performance art, music and dance, created by German choreographer Nikeata Thompson, accompanied Korean carmaker Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture in Motion. Another inspiring conceptual offering, here lights form virtual sculptures inspired by how nature continuously adapts to the changing environment.
An interesting partnership came from BMW who worked with celebrated French design siblings Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for its Milan exhibit. Quite Motion is a take on individual e-mobility. The slowly and silently rotating installation (reminiscent of a carousel) interprets BMW’s electric i sub-brand’s design – the lightweight construction, transparency and environmentally friendly materials. The installation’s pared-down form highlights the visionary aspect of electric mobility.
Over at sister company MINI, head of design Anders Warming revealed another intriguing installation. Based on the latest Paceman car, KAPOOOW takes observers on a bit of a journey revealing what’s hidden behind the sheet metal. We observe the car trapped between two worlds – one in chrome, the other woven out of paper parts – showing how two opposite parts create one complete unit.
For more on the exhibits visit Salone Internazionale del Mobile.
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