Welcome to the future of urban modernity, a future that is still being written, its canvas somehow extracted from the crowded city streets of the world's great metropolises. Cities were once shaped by transport, public and private. But now the inverse is true, and we are more wary of the impact that transportation has on the urban fabric, the quality of the air, and the experience of the streets.
BMW believes in pushing technological boundaries. In 2007, the German manufacturer established Project i, a far-reaching think tank designed to explore all aspects of future mobility, and now transfers all its knowledge into the sub-brand BMW i.
BMW i exists for the emerging world of ultra-dense megacities, whose ten million-plus populations offer limitless opportunities for new approaches, as well as fresh pitfalls to avoid. Personal transportation remains an integral element of the metropolis, now and tomorrow. Today, the US has nearly 600 cars for every 1,000 people, while emerging markets such as India and China have far fewer; 11 and 22 per 1,000 respectively. Yet these countries are also home to the new megacities, and their exploding urban centres all clamouring for the perceived freedom of the automobile.
Things have to change. While vastly more energy-efficient and safe than their ancestors, today's cars still need an evolutionary leap. BMW i sets out to discover this, in the process providing the intellectual and technological underpinnings of the new sub-brand -- which will retain the company's celebrated design and dynamic qualities, using highly refined, ultra-light carbon-fibre based components. By starting with a ground-up reassessment of the way city dwellers buy and use personal transportation, BMW i will bring together fresh thinking in future mobility, design, manufacturing and marketing. BMW i and Wallpaper* are going further. In the next six months, six design schools from six different cities (see previous page) will be invited to explore new ways in which the modern city will evolve around this new transport revolution. Teams of design students will pursue ideas that embrace future mobility, urban accommodation, and commercial and cultural activity.
Mindful that yesterday's futurism is today's nostalgia, we will eschew the shiny, all-new metropolis, in favour of a more pragmatic approach, a combination of new paradigms with evolutionary design. This collaboration is an exploration of every kind of new urban initiative, from the form and function of car-park charging stations, or the apartment of tomorrow, to sustainable programmes such as micro-power generation or urban re-greening, or even efficiency-generating ventures, such as public storage spaces and location-based technology. The possibilities are endless. Each team will be tasked with realising a vision for their neighbourhood in the future, extrapolating current concerns and emerging technologies to create new ways of doing things in design, architecture and culture.
Wallpaper* will be following the evolution of these designs and associated research at Wallpaper.com in the months to come. We expect lateral thinking, collaboration and creativity, ideas that may require ideological shifts, yet which remain entirely feasible.
Wallpaper* and BMW i are exploring the near future through the eyes of design, showing ways in which these six key cities could conceivably evolve through the initiative of the young designers who will ultimately be pivotal players
in the cities of tomorrow.