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BMW 'Dwelling Lab' project

Tue, 11 May 2010

One of the most interesting pieces of work shown at the recent Milan Design Week was 'The Dwelling Lab', collaboration between BMW, Flos Lighting and Kvadrat fabrics. Artists Patricia Urquiola and Guilio Ridolfo were commissioned to effectively turn a BMW 5 Series GT inside out.

The car is 'exploded' - with five giant cone-like structures growing out of the windscreen, door openings etc. The interior of the car itself has been covered using a range of existing Kadvart materials, which the designers adapted through a special padded/layering technique, for the in-car application.

Ridolfo explains: "The inside of the car is normally a restricted space. We wanted to make something more touchy inside, more warm." Of particular note are the additional elements Urquiola has designed for the interior: "We developed a little element (neck rest) for sleeping - I don't know why cars don't automatically have this. We built a system of seat-back multipockets, because I need these in a car - to store all the rubbish I take and create on long journeys!"

The overall effect is to create a soft, calm, monochromatic interior - an inviting place to curl up and spend time. Outside of the 5 Series interior itself, the inner surfaces of the cone structures are adorned with articles that the designers found in their own cars, or typically carry with them on journeys.

The project - which came about after a chance meeting between BMW's Adrian Van Hooydonk and Kvadrat CEO Anders Byriel - is an interesting installation in its own right, creating an object which feels part architecture, part furniture and part sculpture. Viewed from one perspective, it is an interesting commentary on the changing role and importance of the automotive interior.

"The main focus is the interior - the exterior form is secondary", Byriel suggests of the project. This much is arguably true of automotive design, too. As people spend longer inside of their cars, interior design priorities have increased - it is the area we currently see most change, and indeed, many cars are now jokingly referred to as living rooms on wheels.

Perhaps Urquiola and Ridolfo's concept is also a subtle hint - most profoundly obvious in elements such as the neck rest and seat-back multipocket - that modern car interiors are often still not what they should be. The limited palettes of (mostly hard) materials and the prioritizing of a cool appearance over ultimate everyday practicality is currently the norm in modern day cars.

More than anything else, 'The Dwelling Lab' feels like a challenge to come up with the next great innovation in car interior design - for designers to finally go beyond the cup holder.

Related Articles:
Show Review: Milan Design Week 2009 
Show Review: Milan Design Week 2008 
Show Review: Milan Design Week 2007 

By Joe Simpson