The creative world congregates in Milan annually for Salone del Mobile. The coveted design fair has grown widely in the last few years to expand from its hub at the main fairground in Rho, taking over pockets of edgier urban areas. It is increasingly in these hidden enclaves that you are likely to come across some of the more experimental work, including collaborative projects instigated by carmakers.
The auto world has been eyeing up Milan for some years — after all it does act as a fantastic branding exercise. Yet, only a handful are thinking beyond the product. The car as a vessel, how it will function and what it means to future generations is of great concern, and Milan, with its annual gathering of avant-garde minds, is ripe for instigating discourse.
Spheres Precision & Poetry in Motion by BMW
The two exhibitions from the BMW Group set out to examine the brands in the wider context of mobility by challenging non-automotive designers to look into the future with very different results.
Catching up with design director Adrian van Hooydonk in Milan, he says it is precisely this uncertainty in the outcome that excites him when collaborating with creative minds from outside his field.
This year he approached Alfredo Häberli who has unravelled a range of scenarios to address driving in the future. Spheres is a study into the values of future mobility on a conceptual level.
Refreshingly, the Swiss Argentinian product designer refrains from providing a single solution. Instead this is an open study into how we could move from place to place — of our relationship with driving once the car becomes an autonomous vessel.
Head of BMW design Karim Habib, who collaborated on this project, explains. ‘For Alfredo, mobility in the future is beyond cars… It is more about flying, coasting, gliding. He has visions of how cities can be.’
Sketches and studies lead to a giant teak sculpture resembling the skeleton of an old ship. Häberli’s mobility vessels offer enjoyment in the experience of travel. His cities are built on sea, in the skies. His is a cinematic world evoking the spirit of Gattaca, of Fifth Element.
Habib feels such projects are essential on how they impact on BMW design on an abstract level. ‘It feeds in to the act of automated driving,’ he offers. ‘For a brand that has been associated with driving, what are the challenges and equally opportunities? Our job as designers is to create an environment for when you’re not driving,’ he says before adding, ‘I’m super happy to be working in a time when we can do all this.’