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BMW i and Wallpaper* Megacity project

Fri, 19 Aug 2011

BMW i and Wallpaper* magazine have joined forces for ‘Sustainable Neighborhoods', a global project exploring how design and technology will serve in keeping megacities of the future moving.

Students teams from each of the six chosen neighborhoods – from Los Angeles, Paris, London, Hangzhou, Berlin and Tokyo – have been tasked by the two companies, and their school course, to research their nearest megacity for a suitable case study to act as a catalyst for creative thinking about how short term cultural and technological evolution will have an impact on the way we live tomorrow.

A series of workshops and in-depth discussions took place with students, tutors and members of BMW's global design team to examine the evolution of cities and research six different city zones, with the aim of defining a new infrastructural, cultural or social project that will scale seamlessly into the future.

Wallpaper* and BMW i were looking for ‘innovative thinking, a combination of pragmatism and panache that seeks out space and opportunity for change for the better'. Considerations such as future mobility and infrastructure through to cultural or social initiatives harnessing existing technologies as well as new proposals were welcomed.

Los Angeles – Led by tutor and artist Professor Rebecca Mendez, UCLA students' work on the Sustainable Neighborhoods project focused on kick-starting 'root-and-branch' regeneration in Westwood, the district in which their campus is based. Initial research paved the way for the development of several conceptual projects, which together represented their desire for increased pedestrian traffic, better integration between students and residents to bring a richer cultural life for the area.

Paris – BMW's Katharina Schraidt and Markus Speck came on board with Wallpaper to shape the results, which distilled a very intense period of research by students of Paris's Strate Collège into a commitment to shape schemes that would determine a 'global public mobility' for the city of 2050.

London – Working under course director Patricia Austin, the Sustainable Neighborhoods brief was taken up by the Decorators Design Collective, an emerging multi-disciplinary unit that was born out of Central St Martin's MA in Creative Practice for Narrative Environments. Design development evolved from tracking the used car market in their neighborhood, Hackney, through to focusing on the space that evaporating car use would eventually leave behind – the parking space – and the architectural and social uses that could fill its place.

Hangzhou – Design development by The China Academy of Art in Hangzhou concentrated on ways in which the rich, expansive research on the evolution and use of the city's streets could be focused into new systems for making the most of urban mobility.

Tokyo – Hideki Maruyama of BMW Tokyo joined Wallpaper* at Tokyo Communication Arts to discuss the research and presentation of the 40-strong student team. Students delved into the city's historic Shimo-Kitazawa district, looking at ways in which modern communication methods and technology have made the contemporary city dweller more insular than ever before. This led to a range of designs for urban additions that make the most of design, sustainability and the environment, while also tackling ways of improving the way people relate to one another, on the street, in stores and whilst traveling.

Berlin – The 11-strong student team from Berlin's Weissensee School of Art, working under tutor and architect Niklas Galler, analyzed the way their city and its inhabitants approached personal transportation. The initial findings have focused on access rather than ownership. Using BMW's existing brand as a starting point, the students sketched up eight concept vehicles, ranging from one-person tricycles to city buses. Niklas Galler, who heads up Berlin-based nr21 Design, will focus on the evolution and demand for all forms of urban mobility. 'How do we move from A to B in the future?', he asks, 'How do vehicle archetypes develop when there is a change of structural demands?'

Read the full story on Wallpaper's BMW i Sustainable Neighbourhoods Project site.

Related articles:
BMW's new i concepts revealed
Audi recruits German and Mexican students to design A0 monocycle



By Rufus Thompson