Lamborghini Egoista: The Aesthetics of Irrelevance

Not known for their self restraint, Lamborghini’s admittedly self-serving concept to mark their 50th anniversary is no exception. At a glance, the Egoista (Italian for ‘selfish’) appears to be an outrageous evolution of the automaker’s stealth-inspired design language, hinted at with the Reventon and refined to near perfection with the Aventador. But spend a few more moments scrutinizing the Egoista in all it’s faceted glory and it looks more like an ill-refined design school project than a resolved interpretation of the brand.

If you look back over Lamborghini’s 50-year history there have been more than a few misfires…and often to the company’s financial detriment. So as a one-off study you might say the Egoista can afford to be a flamboyant, impractical provocation that perfectly lives up to its name. Yet even with a tumultuous past there are solid truths that emerged to make Lamborghini what it is: dramatic proportions, impossibly wide and low stances and bold horizontal elements that gave them an unmistakable presence. Under Audi’s stewardship these features were refined, integrated and evolved into a cohesive design language with precision engineering to match.

Recently however, these truths have been abandoned in a race to hack together complex and unresolved surfaces in the name of design differentiation, artistic license or a lack of direction hidden behind the auspices of ‘futurism’. While the multi-million dollar Veneno might owe its quagmire of surfaces to aerodynamic considerations, it doesn’t justify the somehow flimsy and juvenile result.

What is increasingly apparent, on an industry-wide level, is that design…or perhaps styling…is no longer something that can set anyone apart. An attempt to do so without a grounded rationale results in one brand that is indiscernible from the next. Abandoning history, experience, patience and process results in head-scratching departures that will never look better than the instant they are unveiled. Time will only make them worse.

And that brings us back to the Egoista. I would say it was designed to appeal to the eight-year-old in us all, but that gives little credit to the eight-year-old. According to Walter de’Silva the design team “kept an eye on the future when designing the Egoista”, but this is the kind of faux-futurism that has run its course in more ways than one. Our fast approaching future might have less technological and manufacturing constraints, but that means there has to be more of a reason for doing things than ever before. The Memphis design movement in the 80s have had talented designers behind it, but the outcome was atrocious. While it was framed as a reaction against harsh, cold modernism, it was much more a wall than a window, and that appears to be where automobile styling is headed as fast as the coefficient of drag will allow them.

How a car is made, what’s it made of, what propels it, what it does, where it goes, who uses it, and why? These are interesting questions and constraints, but perhaps the wrong ones to ask of Lamborghini because these are design considerations, not those of art & style. Good design is thoughtful, relevant, resolved…necessary even. It can be as inspirational and outrageous as humanly possible, but the fundamentals have to be in place for this to be relevant – and the Egoista is far from relevant. From it’s tragically outdated gray and orange color combination and incorrect proportions to De Silva’s proclaimed “hedonism taken to the extreme” attitude, it’s a wonder the Italian word for “callous” wasn’t a better choice than “selfish”.

The Lamborghini Insensibile definitely has a ring to it.


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