Mazda's current design philosophy is moving in decidedly Zen-like circles. Like a child throwing pebbles into a mirror-still pool of water, the Japanese brand cast the diametrically different Sassou, Senku and Kauri concepts far out into the design community in 2005/6 and waited to see which way the ripples would take them.
From these three focal points an inward momentum was created, an inexorable circular movement towards a production car bearing a completely new Mazda design language. That car, hints Mazda North America's Design Director Franz von Holzhausen, will appear in pre-production form at the company's home auto show in Tokyo later this year.
'It's like a concentric circle,' explains the soft-spoken California-based designer. 'With the Sassou, Senku and Kabura we struck out in a bunch of different directions, but eventually we're going to land in the middle at something that you can go into the showroom and buy. For the moment, however, they're still circling the outer reaches of a design philosophy that Holzhausen has dubbed 'flow', or Nagare in Japanese.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, this new form language physically manifested itself in the first of a troika of striking new concepts: the Nagare. A radical grand tourer for the year 2020 designed by Mazda's studio in Irvine, California, Nagare borrows the most successful elements from its three conceptual forebears and translates them into what Holzhausen describes as a 'concept of a concept car'.
'Flow is the study of how nature expresses motion. If you look at a desert landscape, it appears as if the air is moving across the sand even though you can't see it. That's what we wanted to create: a way of introducing ideas of texture and motion into the surface language,' explains the Pontiac Solstice designer. 'That's the thing: it's not just a stuck-on detail or a cliched road stance. We've got a lot of freedom to explore this.'
The most striking thing about the Nagare's design is the deep etch lines that run along the car's flanks. They converge, fading as they go, to an invisible point above the rear wheelarches before re-emerging and fanning out to form filigree-like strands of orange light that make up the rear light clusters. Like ripples on a sand dune, they create a sense of air moving across the vehicle, of unseen motion - a theme picked up by the twisted lines that form the headlamps. Sidewinder trails are what come immediately to mind.
The Nagare, says Holzhausen, was just the first expression of flow. For the Detroit show in January, the Irivine studio team distilled this idea into a deliberately more feasible and down-to-earth form: the 2010 Ryuga sports car concept. Again, deep etch lines dominate the overall look, and the Senku-inspired shark's head nose and sidewinder lights remain. But the feel is less extreme, especially inside where the Nagare's diamond-pattern seat configuration gives way to a more conventional 2+2 layout. 'It's still about motion,' insists Holzhausen, 'but in a much more calm and quiet way. Like a Japanese rock garden.'
Meanwhile, the Geneva show will debut an even more grounded expression of the philosophy, this time designed by the company's studio in Frankfurt, Germany. Something equally exploratory but more believable, promises Franz. As radical, as avant-garde, as these cars feel now, by the time we get elements and themes into the finished car two years from now, people will be like 'yeah, we've seen this. It's a Mazda'
Personally, I doubt people will be so blase. While parent company Ford's European arm continues to talk in a loud voice about its Kinetic Design philosophy and expressing 'energy in motion', Holzhausen has found a way of actually translating this into something you and I can touch, and hopefully buy. Interestingly, the US-born designer says that the roots of this can be traced back to Spring 2006 edition of Intersection, the one with the Colani concept on the cover: I saw that car, the way it was shot from above with those organic, flowing shapes, and said 'that's the kind of car we need to build'. All my recent concepts have sprung from that point. By Euan Sey. Exclusive online extract from Intersection Magazine.
Libraries aren’t generally known for amazing architecture but this incredible one in Italy has us dying to get there amongst the books. Pictured below, it’s actually an extension on the existing library at the Pontificial Lateran University, which houses new reading rooms and an Auditorium. The incredibly stylish space was designed by Rome firm King Roselli, who took totally fresh approach to the project by employing features not usually seen in these types of spaces, such as a curved ceiling, angular stair-casing and vast glass panelling.
The university holds an outstanding collection of books numbering around 600,000 volumes, some of which date back to the 16th century, whose subjects for the most part coincide with the principal academic courses: philosophy, theology and law. The bulk of them are now deposited in the newly restored compartmentalised underground vaults equipped with an adequate fire extinguisher system and humidity and temperature control. Learning has never been so glamorous. By Laura Demasi
Originality is rare these days in the art world but we're pleased to report that we've stumbled upon an artist whose work is both innovative and modern. Matt Bilfield, California based artist, won us over with this incredible three-dimensional piece 'Peggy', a brilliant and ambitious interpretation of a painting by famous artist, Roy Lichtenstein. The mammoth work - its seven feet wide and three feet tall - is comprised of 2788 hand cut, sanded, and painted dowels that where then assembled together to recreate Lichtensteins image. The result is a cross between a graphic art image, sculpture, and installation which offers the viewer a different experience from every angle. By Bill T
Ikea pack furniture in it. Gehry has made furniture from it. Now architects are shaping spaces with it. Is there any limit to the creative re-use of corrugated cardboard? With its unique physical consistency, its decidedly axial strength, and its deadening acoustic absorption, corrugated cardboard has many inherent qualities. As such it was the perfect material for this particular sound installation.
Made from 720 half square sheets of 7mm thick corrugated cardboard, stacked in 360 layers, this cavernous sound space is set within a 2.5m cube. As a space for listening to and experiencing music, the initial concept for the design developed from the architect's ambition to create a strong spatial intensity and a distinct internal atmosphere. With an irregular free-form interior set within a regular cubic volume, the object has a profound duality. Made from one material it also has an implied solidity that strengthens the architect's distinction between inside and out - a distinction that is heightened when the full acoustic ambience is experienced from within.
Cutting the cardboard took three working days, and assembly just one. The structure sits under its own dead weight, without any fixings or glue. And, for those of a technical persuasion, a simple calculation reveals that the combined compression of the 360 layers of cardboard is 20mm over the 2.5m height, or an average of 500ths of a millimetre per sheet. All services are integrated within the stack, including cable runs and apertures for the six-speaker surround sound system. R. G.
Camouflage, or cryptic colouration, is something living organisms have developed over millions of years in order to remain indiscernible from the surrounding environment.
Buildings, something humans have designed and built for thousands of years, have never been indiscernible from the surrounding environment. If anything, our egotistical fascination with conquering nature has meant our buildings are designed to triumph over its surroundings. Of course, nature inspires building design. But it rarely seeks to mimic it.
That is, until this twist on nature landed on The Cool Hunter doorstep. Set among shrubs and budding fir trees, this home has been encased in a façade matching the greenery around it. The concealing mesh is permeable to let the sunshine filter onto the house. But it also allows the light from inside to radiate out. Allowing the build to sit anonymously by day, but emerge discretely at night. Blurring the boundaries between what is human, and what is not.
Inside, the materials are organic and neutral. Wood decking and paneling cover the inside and outer reaches, while neutral colors blend rooms into a seamless array of angles and hard wood furnishings. But perhaps what’s more inspiring, is the building’s impact. The structure, while inherently human, isn’t trying to dominate the landscape it resides in. The single-storey house will soon be engulfed as the surrounding woodland matures, and the materials used to give the house its shape, will darken and merge with the backdrop. It’s an idea based on nature — to evolve with nature, and to mimic the concept of nature. Something in our opinion, there should be more of. By Matthew Hussey