In 1959, the Suez Crisis led to oil shortages and the rise of fuel prices across the western world. British Motor Corporation responded by creating an economy car which was affordable and used little petrol. The Sir Alec Issigonis design for the original Mini was genius. The tiny motor car he invented for BMC could pack in more passengers than any other in its comparable size – and it was super-fun to drive too. The Boomers and young hip urbanites fell for its no-frills approach and go-kart drive. The Mini felt democratic; it was effortless and iconoclastic and starred in The Italian Job alongside thoroughly cool Michael Caine. It became and remains a symbol of 60s counterculture.
With the traditional motor car experiencing what only can be described as an existential crisis, modern MINI has a chance to become a symbol of the progressive 2020s. Maybe it can even become the future personal transport choice for gen Z. The MINI cars produced under BMW Group ownership in the last two decades are stylish products. They are good-looking, like the original they handle a little go-karty and don’t feel too elitist for urbanites. Yet I can’t help thinking there is something missing from the modern MINI formula. The marque could be so much more. Enter the MINI Vision Urbanaut, a shape-shifting electric vehicle that rethinks personal transport’s form and function, and it feels like the right direction for the brand.
Talking to the BMW Group creative director Adrian van Hooydonk earlier when the brand revealed its radical future vision under #NextGen, he told me: ‘MINI customers typically live in urban environments and I believe they are even more ready for electric drive and new ways of looking at mobility than perhaps our other brands. We can definitely go faster in this direction. The Vision Urbanaut shows how MINI can take our BMW iNext thoughts to another level. I think we can use MINI to push these concepts further.’
Take a closer look at the MINI Vision Urbanaut here Images above (c) Hartmut Nörenberg and below (c) MINI
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.
Pininfarina is responsible for some of the most enduring and exotic motor cars in design history. Founded by Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina in 1930, the carrozzeria has sketched products that have become icons for Ferrari, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo – to name a few. The studio works within the wider creative world too, designing jets, yachts, trains, buses, and other industrial products. It is also expanding its architecture practice with some outstanding projects. As the marque celebrates its 90th birthday, I used the opportunity to chat with the chair and grandson of the founder, Paolo Pininfarina, to see where he sees the company heading now and in the future. Read the full interview here
With the climate in crisis, a wave of progressive designers and makers are rethinking the traditional transport model with some brilliant and exciting ideas. Meet the latest, the three-wheel Zbee urban shared run-around by Clean Motion. Take a closer look at this global initiative from Sweden.
This is the latest in the MINI Living series, exhibited in Milan as part of Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone. The project investigates how a new approach to design can improve urban life and, in the process, examines how the marque can evolve from being simply a car brand. The idea is to collaborate with various architects – different voices for different projects. For Milan, MINI worked with London architect Studiomama for Built by All, a study that places the occupants at the centre of the design process so that their individual needs and ideas are met through a series of suggestive modular spaces. The project will feed directly into the first of many real-life buildings opening in Shanghai in April 2019. Read the full story here.