Royal College of Art Vehicle Design Show 2011

The Royal College of Art Vehicle Design Show 2011’s  projects focus once again on three pathways to help define and focus the work; Urban Flow, Automark, and Inside Out.  Urban Flow reflects the need for individual mobility to operate within volume movement, driving the agenda for sensible, sociable movement in the built environment, through innovative typologies, streets and systems.  Automarkaddresses marque and model, brand and identity, recognising the relationships between product and production, customer and cost, make and market.  Inside Out finds and utilises the latest developments in process, systems and materials to provide cost-effective innovation within and without vehicles and their context.

Herein we explore the different directions and the students who followed them.  However, it is safe to say that if last year there was an overall attention to ‘green’ and environmental issues this year there was a general air of discontent with the automotive industry.  Tired of listening to excuses and myths perpetuated by large car companies as to why cars are still so irresponsible to the environment and irresponsive to the user they have taken matters into their own hands.  The two-time winner of the Pilkington Awards (see below), Adam Phillips was tired of MPV sporty styling and designed a new Family Dynamic concept, Ido Baruchin cannot understand why local production coupled with global manufacturing is not the natural solution to making cars such as his Otto, and two other students, James Brooks and Richard Bone, have joined forces and made their own design firm, Brooks&Bone to challenge the automotive status quo.  Principle and integrity were paramount this year!

Urban Flow was followed by Ian Kettle, Adam Phillips, Ido Baruchin, Robert Hagenström, and Dai Shang.

Kettle had made a firm decision that his final project was going to be something that really pushed his capacities and his brain…Brain Machine Interface was at the centre of his design Neuron.  The BMI system can predict what the driver wants to do, thus becoming an extension of oneself.  Not sure what materials would best create the effect of blue pixels he rendered digitally and in model form Kettle was more interested in the connection of the modular chassis to BMI technology. 

Phillips’s design, Family Dynamic, deservedly won the design awards as it was easily the most challenging yet a concept anyone could understand and appreciate.  The crux is that existing family car layouts reflect a family from the 50’s and that assumption has not been valid for decades; his design brings modern day family life in line with the automotive environment.  It is genius because this same approach could be used for many other car segments, if so many 4x4 are driven by women in cities…should we not be thinking about a different layout? 

Baruchin comes from a Product Design background, he was looking to go beyond his comfort zone when he decided he would do a degree in Vehicle Design but he never imagined it would take him back to where he started, a lot wiser.  Product designers tend to visualise their products wihtin a lifestyle, within a context that is pretty realistic.  Car designers imagine a design and then most often than not impose it into someone's lifestyle or context, often incongruently.  So when Baruchin approached eco-design with his design Otto he created a vehicle that would be made and fit into its context, or better yet its culture.  The efficiency comes from global manufacturing creating a one size fits all chassis and the reduced carbon footprint comes from local finishings...simples.

Hagentröm’s  Bamboo vehicle stood out from the crowd of slick surfaces and digital perfection.  The natural materials, bamboo and switchgrass, would come as a kit with an engine and be grown locally.  The farmers would then grow these materials and use the vehicle to carry the harvest to sell and the cycle perpetuates itself; the keenest example of cradle-to-cradle design. 

Shang approached his project with his local knowledge of his home country China to design Innovahicle.  He accepts that people will want to live more and more in cities, but the four-wheeled vehicle is perhaps not agile or narrow enough, so urban compact is the way to go. 

Automark was followed by David Eburah, Heikki Juvonen, Juha Pekka Rautio, James Harness, Hitesh Panchal, and Elizabeth Pinder.

Eburah was looking for drama when he was searching for inspiration for his Corvette Seity.  A one person sports car the piece is composed of layers of expression and tension all focussing on forward movement.  Throw in some Chrome Hearts rims and you have Eburah’s answer to brand identitiy…theatre.  Theatre for brand development means a lot of character development and plenty of mystery.

Juvonen’s Citroën 48H explores the congestion of cities from the outside in, what happens when there will be nowhere private, no time to travel, no-where to stay?  The car has long been a means of escape; Juvonen revives that desire by designing a car that appeals to quick getaways, to freedom of choice when we hardly have any, and to freedom of car design.  The Glam Camper, as he calls it, has bits of boat cabin, home interiors, and utility.  What about the drivetrain?  “I thought about it, even researched it, but then decided that in the future the drivetrain will be green and follow the design, and not visa-versa like now”.

Rautio’s Polar design was very clearly envisioned to help give local communities vehicles that they need for their conditions, and not just whatever they may get from the global automotive market.  Addressing the needs of rural areas in his native country of Finland he found that the package quickly defined aesthetics giving Polar a hinged cargo area with enough room for a snowmobile, enough manoeuvrability, and height to clear densely snowed in areas. His was yet another example of looking to local solutions and situations to improve people’s quality of life.

Harness has been an avid cyclist, ever since childhood.  It is difficult for him to justify any kind of car as the right solution for ecologically concerned individuals to adopt when there is the healthy and clean option of the bike.  But there are drawbacks and so he challenged himself to design a solution, the Hybrid-Cargo-Trike, which would have electric assist and a covered cargo area to compensate the cons.  The result is an elegantly signature Harness solution, a simple retro bike frame with a taught organic surface cover defined by carlike wheel covers…quirky hybrid. 

Panchal focused on ‘light’ for his design, Jaguar Light.  The word in itself can mean so many things, he followed three: Lite – as in foods, Perception – how we experience light, and Weight – light materials.  All meanings and directions of ‘light’ are beneficial in the automotive world, lightness in materials usually equates to environmental gains, and visual lightness instinctively makes us feel free and is naturalistic.  Panchal was adamant that today’s vehicles look heavy and daunting while the message they should be pursuing is light and ‘in touch’.

Pinder explored the negative image that hydrogen as a fuel has, referring to Hindenberg and Hiroshima as main issues, and tried to focus on the element of water to soothe the imagination.  Her design. Nyx, follows the form of a water droplet and even uses rain water filtered in through roof and organic lattices that extend out from the four corners of the car.  Everything about her project aims to calm and comfort the mind and spirit and allow once more possibility of water to become a source of power.

Inside Out was followed by Fernando Ocaña, Julliana Cho, James Brooks, Richard Bone, and Murray Westwater.

Ocaña’s Monoform was a surprise, but then all his work is.  He has a charismatic, even cheeky, view about the world that he can capture in a moment in his work.  It might not be practical but it certainly is provocative and makes you reconsider why, in this case, cars look the way they do.  Aside from aerodynamics, redundant in the city, and safety regulations, overly protective say some, Ocaña mimics the buildings around the city with height and mirrored glass in his Monoform design.  It is a question he is asking us, asking to look at ourselves from a different point of view…beautifully executed.

Cho’s Porsche Sharing system is a clever solution to the conundrum that is car sharing.  At the moment car sharing is for the masses, but consider which cars are the most polluting and you quickly point fingers the likes of Porsche.  So why not create a car sharing scheme that appeals to luxury brand customers with the extra satisfaction of having a custom built assembly system where you can see your very own customised car being built?  Cool.

Brooks&Bone, as mentioned above, is the new design firm that will tackle all the self-indulging problems caused by car companies...that’s our impression.  Their Box proposal is an essentialist approach to solving personal mobility issues.  The boxed styling, with simple manufacturing processes, tips its hat to Bauhaus and Memphis movements…lets hope that they succeed and change the world!

Westwater ‘s Mimesis inspiration came from the incredible forces that a woodpecker’s head can withstand, and recent advances in our understanding of its structure and potential.  It is always good practise to take design cues from nature, especially now that nature needs our helps.  Mimesis not only takes that woodpecker inspiration but adds to it with a flowing endo and exo skeletal design theme. 

Below is Pilkington's Press Release for their Awards...enjoy!

·         Winning design brings iPad technology to modern family car
·         First time in 24 years a student wins both awards
·         Commendations awarded to Bamboo vehicle and reflective car
A former toy designer has scooped top honours at this year’s Pilkington Vehicle Design Awards at the Royal College of Art, for his new concept on the modern family car that uses iPad-style technology.  For the first time in the awards’ 24-year history, the prizes for Best Overall Design and Best Use of Glazing were presented to one designer.  Adam Phillips, a postgraduate of the RCA’s prestigious vehicle design course, impressed the judges with his concept called Family Dynamic.

Adam, who previously worked as a toy designer for Lego before studying at the RCA, designed the vehicle as a space which allowed for healthy interaction between its occupants.  He said: “Current interiors of vehicles promote an outdated family dynamic, with one person – the driver - being handed all of the focus and responsibility. Nowadays however, children have much more influence and freedom.  My design mimics life in the home, where the occupants have greater interaction.”

The interaction is created with a clever seating arrangement and an interactive wall using digitally enabled glass which spans the length of the passenger space.  It connects the occupants and allows them to collaborate through applications such as movies, gaming or communication.  The vehicle is also designed as a range of modular components allowing the interior to be configured to suit the size of the family and their needs – from storage to intimacy or group activity.  Adam added: “I’ve always wanted to design good things for everyday people.  Just because something isn’t expensive, doesn’t mean that the design has to be sub-standard.”
The judging panel for the awards included Earl Beckles, principle designer at Jaguar Advanced Design, Hong K. Yeo, designer at McLaren - both former winners of the Pilkington award - David Wilkie, design studio director at Mia Electric and Paula Hilditch, global product manager at Pilkington Automotive.  Explaining the reason why Adam’s design stood out above the 18 other entries, David Wilkie said:  “Family Dynamic is a very well thought out design.  It is a car to be lived in and the use of current and future technologies has been well integrated into the vehicle.  It shows that cars do not have to have the sensation of speed, but they have to be well designed.
Earl Beckles added:  “Adam demonstrated a relevant use of glass by enabling portable devices to interface with digitally-enabled glazing within the vehicle, to display a variety of information.  His use of glass was very innovative and appropriate particularly as Pilkington manufacture the glass for Apple’s touch screen devices.

Commendations were also awarded to Robert Hagenstrom, from Sweden, who designed a vehicle made from Bamboo for people living in the third world and Fernando Ocaña, from Mexico, for his Monoform design which used reflective glass and architectural shaping to encourage people to view their current environment from a different perspective.  Robert Hagenstrom’s Bamboo concept entails a fully sustainable process whereby people can generate their own materials to build a car that, once built, can continue to provide an income and enterprise.  Robert explained:  “It’s a farm, forest and factory in one.  Once given a patch of land, a person is provided with a kit consisting of an engine, essential seeds and saplings. Bamboo and switchgrass are quick growing and once used to build the vehicle, they can continue to provide income through its ongoing farming and cultivation.  The vehicle itself is designed for local transportation of harvested crops and can be built using traditional craftsmanship.”
Fernando Ocana wanted to explore conceptual design during his time on the RCA’s course.  He explores urbanism, symbolism, complexity and evolution through his design which uses its mirror-like form to attract the attention of passers-by and encouraging them to look at what is around them from a completely different perspective.  Discussing the future of automotive design, Fernando said:  “I hope that we, [the next generation of designers], are going to do things differently.  I want us to flip car design over and turn it on its head.”
The Pilkington Automotive awards, in partnership with the RCA, have become a recognised barometer for celebrating the next generation of vehicle designers.   The awards have seen students push the boundaries of glazing technologies and design innovation, with many going on to have successful careers in the industry.  Professor Dale Harrow, head of vehicle design at the RCA, comments: “The Pilkington awards have become synonymous with nurturing the best young talent in vehicle design and for launching the careers of some of the most creative people in the business.  The awards represent a mark of quality for potential employers, which is why the students work so hard to produce the most innovative designs.