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Royal College of Art Degree Show 2008

Fri, 11 Jul 2008

The Vehicle Design Masters program at the RCA held its annual degree show a few weeks ago, showcasing an array of transport designs created by the graduating class of 2008. In all, 18 students - including three PhD graduates - developed projects which dealt with the current issues of accessibility, aerodynamics, environmental impact, ergonomics, legislation, materials, production, safety, and technology, as well as the aesthetic principles of vehicle design. Peter Stevens - the first MA graduate - David Wilkie of Stile Bertone, Alfonso Albaisa of Nissan and Peter Shreyer of Kia were just some of the RCA alumni in attendance.

Regenerating Passion
Sérgio Loureiro da Silva
The focus of this project, which won a commendation, was to regenerate lost energy by using the constant movement of the vehicle. A kinetic axis at the core of the concept harnesses energy that would otherwise be lost, while functional elements such as the rear-mounted electric engines become aesthetic design features. A front-mounted turbine generates energy by capturing wind, and to minimize friction that dissipates energy, components between have been kept to a minimum. Windows in the lower door section and the glass roof that opens up leaving users exposed and in tune with their surroundings are meant to enhance the driving sensation.

Soft Vehicle
Raquel Aparicio López
This autonomous vehicle concept, which depicts what we could all be driving in 50 years, was also awarded a commendation. As users won't need protection from crashes, the materials from which avehicle can be made are bountiful. The concept is made from vacuum-formed foam and entry is gained via a slit in the side that retracts to its original form. Once inside, occupants are enveloped by 'jelly balls' within the chaise longue seating, which provide comfort. A tactile screen - where the windshield would normally be - is powered by electromagnetic induction from the road. This interacts with the system that drives the vehicle and can be used to project a variety of visuals, including the exterior reality. The cabin has been placed rearward to accentuate the seating position and features thin slits for windows emphasizing the unnecessary exterior view.

Pierre Sabas
The C-Airflow project, which won an award for Best Design Interpretation, focuses on emotion and the demonstration of technology. Using Makrolon, glass, interior composites and comfort materials, the main feature of the design is the four-seat interior suspended in a glass shell. The transparent, delicate and fragile exterior elements, with surfaces all trying to reach one another, creates a tension in the design, and contrasts with the interior - the backbone of the concept.  The transparent and tactile vacuum formed plastic milled material was created using rapid prototyping.

Lexus Nuaero
Jon Rådbrink
Focusing on aerodynamic principles in the design of his concept, Rådbrink won the award for Best Use of Glazing for his Nuaero project. By employing a new design language - which looks like a catamaran at the front - the design creates a visual difference for hybrid cars and incorporates an aerofoil for low drag and fuel consumption. The geometrical side surfaces of the concept blend into organic volumes, while the glass on top is like a building or façade, contrasting elements which build on the 'J-Factor' design themes.

Jung Hoon Rhee
This concept interior, which also won a commendation, was created as an environment where users could mentally, physically and socially rediscover the balance lost in their increasingly sedentary lives. The technology behind the 'wave seat' uses conductive polymers infused with nanotubes - an artificial muscle. When charges are sent to a specific location in the polymer chain, it can bend, stretch and contract to create a wave. These seats provide users with an up-lift, an experience where they can float around inside the vehicle and feel light just as if they were in water. The wave seat is an open source platform that can adapt to all body shapes or reconfigured to encourage communication.

Reginald Hingston
This project also received a commendation for responding to a real need and an indigenous problem - designing a vehicle to suit the needs of users in the area for which it was created. Aimed at boosting sustainable development in developing nations, the Lamrana concept is built using local materials, craftsmanship and engineering to be both economically viable and ecological in the West African environment for which it is intended.

Paul Howse
This concept is a new interpretation of luxury and exclusivity. With a long, low hood - possible due to the lack of engine - the concept is intended to be used only on special occasions. It will be kept in a specifically designed building covered in photo-voltaic solar panels to store up solar energy later used to power the car. The interior, suspended by magnetic levitation to separate it from the technical elements of the car, is cradled in the structure, a precious entity much like a Faberge egg.

Yun Woo Jeong
Jeong's concept explores the future of GM's Cadillac brand with his Transform concept. The car is made of transparent elastic that covers the top half like a balloon, which can move forward and aft to adapt to the needs of the occupants inside. By creating a larger interior environment, the concept could fit bicycles at the rear while still providing space for occupants traveling in luxury. The interior theme is very modern, much like a minimalistic living room, complete with a wooden floor deck.

Joonas Vartola
The Iomega is heralded as a new dimension in private luxury transportation by it creator. The three volume chauffer-driver vehicle - with its two main volumes dedicated to the rear seat passengers - features surfacing that wraps around the rear. For added privacy, the opacity in the rear windows can change to blend with the surrounding surface, becoming the main volume and focal point. By working with 3D wire models, Vartola created a structural form which wraps around a looping organic shape, defining lighting where it is divided. The grille is the convergence point at the front.

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By Eric Gallina