Munich – Since the foundation of St-W, we’ve been determined to discover what The Next Space will look like. The past few years have been humbling, as livable areas increasingly leave the realm of the four walls and head into uncharted territory. One of those new – and challenging – iterations is the mobile living space.
No other market project has represented this shift better than the BMW Vision iNEXT, a vehicle that has challenged the spatial layout of the car and presents novel ways of integrating haptic connectivity. But something else has shifted: for a brand so focused on design – and so recognisable for it – it’s been eye-opening to see how this recent cultural need has also impacted their visual decisions. There is a bold willingness in the company to part ways with their hard-earned heritage and create new signature design elements.
We spoke with Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president BMW Group Design, to discuss these visual – and ultimately, structural – changes.
This is surprising: one can usually spot BMW’s signature kidney grille from a far, and recognize one of your cars without even having to see the logo… and yet the iNEXT changes that element into a butterfly-like grille. Why?
ADRIAN VAN HOOYDONK: The BMW Vision iNEXT for sure has a striking front end! Cooling down combustion engines required an open kidney grille, but cooling is no longer required for electric drive systems. So, as the BMW Vision iNEXT is an all-electrically-powered vehicle, the kidney grille is blanked off. This allowed us to give the surface a new use – in this case, we used it to house various sensors.
The other big change is that the angles for this car seem more rugged and the proportions more plump than the usually lean vehicles in the BMW lineup. What do these choices respond to?
With the size and proportions of a modern BMW sports activity vehicle, the long roofline and functional two-box proportions suggest a spacious interior within. Also, the exterior of the BMW Vision iNEXT is also brimming with innovations.
The new BMW i design language is visible with clear, spacious surfaces and a small number of precise lines – it looks as if it was made from a single piece. These lines ultimately accenctuate the interplay of surfaces and accentuate the muscular wheel arches.
This vehicle is similar to a cosy, contemporarily furnished living area on wheels
The back seat looks, happily, like a sofa. Which insights did you take into account about the ways people use their cards today, and the things they want from it that they’re not getting?
Drivers will have more and more freedom to decide how they wish to use their time during a journey in their vehicle. Our design of the interior is set to play an increasingly important role: that’s why the iNEXT has been conceived as something we call My Favourite Space, a place where quality of life is key, filled with relaxation rather than stress. It’s similar to a cosy, contemporarily furnished living area on wheels. Even the mixture of cloth and wood creates a high-class feel that brings home furniture to mind.
Regarding your sofa idea, in the rear compartment we envisioned a lounge character, to invite passengers to relax. The handwoven Jacquard cloth also comes to life at the touch of a finger, and allows music playback to be controlled using various gestures, which are given usual emphasis by LEDs that light up underneath the cloth. But to make it even cosier and optimise the on-board-experience, the technology only steps in when necessary or desire. At other times, it slips into the background, almost out of sight – that’s why we’re calling it Shy Tech.