Homely travel
von Thomas Wagner | May 10, 2010

To be honest, despite a few showcars with ostensibly futuristic interiors, the design of cars' interiors tends rarely to veer off the straight and narrow. Be it hard plastic, quality wood veneer, or high-tech carbon, the life of an automobile interior is essentially determined by the functionality of the cockpit, an aesthetics of technology and speed, by instruments, rests and all sorts of gadgets; the obligatory monitor gets its own little rim in the dashboard; and then there are more or less comfortable seats offering more or less side support. And overhead the same old roof or piece of glass.

In other words, it was high time to start looking for alternatives. Which is why BMW, Danish textiles manufacturers Kvadrat, luminaire makers Flos teamed up with designers Patricia Urquiola and Giulio Ridolfo, to try out something completely different. The idea arose when Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of Design at BMW, and a long-time admirer of Kvadrat's collections, met Kvadrat MD Anders Byriel at a trade fair and spontaneously suggested starting a joint project. The results were presented in Milan at the Salone del Mobile 2010, where they went by the title of "The Dwelling Lab".

The exterior of the automobile in question, a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, was almost invisible, which some may have deeply appreciated. By means of large funnels placed on carbodies that had been stripped of their doors the outer appearance of the car was largely eliminated form view and attention drawn firmly to the interior. Through the funnels, as if the inside had been turned out, you could then see, in harmonized colors, all the things you take along when traveling by care. Urquiola and Ridolfo have not only transformed the basic concept of a luxurious interior into a design sculpture but given the interior a completely new character while retaining the existing underlying structure. Kvadrat, to date a components supplier to the auto industry, developed a fabric for the purpose: It not only does justice to the special needs of car-making, but also is unmistakably a Kvadrat product. The Gran Turismo, or so Hooydonk narrates, "has been designed from the inside out. ‘The Dwelling Lab' for the first time offers you the chance to see the vehicle interior before you see the exterior. The sculpture thus emphasizes the growing importance of interior design, which is geared ever more strongly to people's needs and wishes. It is a contemporary expression of well-being, of being cared for and spoiled with style."

With its curves, pockets and little niches, Patricia Urquiola's sand or powder-colored ‘spoiling space' may seem somewhat over-laden with meaning. Yet she succeeds in perceiving the interior in a new way and creating a quite unique atmosphere. And thus this lab on temporary mobile residences shows in a surprising way how fabrics can be factored innovatively into the autos' interior design in this manner giving rise to an interior that has more with the ambience of your own four walls than the functional neutrality of the typical car.

Flowing forms, countless accessories, embroidered patterns resembling a quilt, soft, bone-shaped pillows draped over the headrests, a special child's seat and holders for baby bottles and toys, any number of pockets and rests, and a lighting concept destined to deliver equally ‘soft' lighting all meld, along with the miniature version of "Chasen", the luminaire Urquiola designed in 2009 for Flos, to create an ambience that both gives the car's interior functions a softer feel or, given the softer shapes and colors reminiscent of natural materials (this being Giulio Ridolfo's contribution) confines them to the backseat, as it were. In sum, the lab delivers an unconventional take on the relationship of inside and outside. And an exciting look at just how an auto interior could be completely different.

The Making of: Adrian van Hooydonk (Head of design of BMW) and Patricia Urquiola
The Dwelling Lab by Patricia Urquiola and Guilio Ridolfo for BMW, Kvadrat and Flos Alle Fotos: © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark
The Making of: Martina Starke (BMW Material- and Colordesign) and Patricia Urquiola