BMW is strengthening its commitment to design through a new collaboration with Swiss Argentine designer Alfredo Häberli that is set to be unveiled in Milan during the Salone del Mobile this coming April.
The project is the sixth in a series of design collaborations initiated by the marque, the most recent being Barber Osgerby's installation at the Victoria & Albert Museum that was on show during the 2014 London Design Festival. Other past collaborators include Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Scholten & Baijings, Paul Cocksedge and Patricia Urquiola, who teamed with Giulio Ridolfo and Kvadrat on ‘The Dwelling Lab’, a radical interpretation of a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo that inaugurated the BMW design projects back in 2010.
‘We work with designers from outside automotive design to get different perspectives on different themes,’ explains Martina Starke, head of colour, trim design and material technology at BMW Design, who, alongside the company’s head of design Karim Habib and under Adrian Van Hooydonk's direction, has worked with Häberli to develop the ambitious concept.
As a starting point, the Zurich-based designer was asked to interpret one of BMW's key theme - precision and poetry in motion, to explore ideas of luxury and to think about how humans will move and live in the not-too-distant future. ‘I find that this concept of precision and poetry is also evident in my way of looking at things,’ explains the designer, who opened his studio 23 years ago and whose work is characterised by sinuous lines, a bold use of colour and a sense of irony. ‘I have this preciseness in my study but I also try to create a lot of emotion with just a few lines,’ he explains, ‘so I feel very comfortable with that concept.’
Häberli was inspired by ideas of the future and how our time will be balanced between working and socialising. He also looked at the technological direction that the automotive industry is taking, realising that in the near future self-driving cars will be the norm: ‘If cars will be driven on "automode", we don’t need streets like we need today.’ Instead, he envisions roads identified by abstract lines, inspired by the free form of ski slopes and lakes.
The next step in his self-drive car concept is the cockpit, which the designer set out to reinvent. Acknowledging that thanks to driverless technology, car seats don’t necessarily need to face forward anymore, Häberli restructured the seating plan. Part lounge chair part island, the 'Couch’ is a round, flexible and customisable seating area. ‘I think the car could also be the space where you can sleep, work and have a chat,’ he explains, adding that the volume of a London taxi was one of the starting points for his design.
The final point of Häberli’s research, after having looked at the future, the home and the car interior, is the vehicle itself, which the designer has dubbed ‘the Vessel’. A true hybrid, it is impossible to say exactly what it is, but rather easy to list the things it is not: ‘It’s not a boat, it’s not a car and it’s not a plane,’ the designer says enigmatically. Rather the aerodynamic shape of the resulting monowheel design, with its elongated bonnet and tall tail fin, takes its design cues from a variety of sources: a BMW limousine, the flying cars featured in the movie The Fifth Element, racing cars from the past and present, flying objects, motorbikes and hyper-performance sailboats.
In Milan, a striking 10-metre long skeleton of the Vessel will be on show at the Area Sciesa Tre exhibition space alongside a smaller model that will provide more detail on the exterior and one-wheel system. The Couch will also be available for people to experience, hinting at what it might be like to sit and lounge inside. A later publication will go deep into the story and inspirations behind the project, while the exhibition will provide it all at a glance, showcasing the designer’s brainstorming process with sculptures, drawings and parts from BMW cars that summarise the 'Poetry in Motion' concept.
Häberli’s wider look at the transport of the future proposes an entirely new way of approaching the category, providing food for thought for both design and car enthusiasts. His lucid analysis encompasses all aspects of life and design; a perfect amalgamation of both the precision and poetry elements from the brief.