RCA revisited

This article was first published on Core77.com


  • The possibilities of Autonomous driving
  • New manufacturing processes driving functional aesthetic
  • New expressions of personality
  • A desire to change the existing ownership proposition and the industry status-quo – the agile industry]

True to form, the RCA’s 2015 MA Automotive Design show featured some challenging abstract concepts that shun outright technical feasibility for provocation of thought. As usual the standard of work was high, with a diverse cultural perspective.

From a Stradivarius-inspired sportscar to an autonomous crop-munching tractor, here are some of the highlights.

VDA design 4

Armed with the data to prove that only 94% of farmers are over the age of 25, Gareth Rees’s proposal for an autonomous tractor, Element, is a vision of a benign creature tirelessly toiling away in the fields, with a minimal carbon footprint. It addresses a real socio-economic need – how to entice bright young things into the world of farming. It’s an interesting interpretation, one that imagines a remote-farming style, perhaps appealing more to a new professional-farmer than the salt-of-the-earth of old.



New, responsible luxury was the theme with Cal Craven’s 68m super-yacht, Orion’s Belt. Aimed at the hyper-rich (read Elon Musk) who desire to show off their wealth but in an ecologically aware way. Gone are the glitzy metallic surfaces, heliports and launches, instead is a craft that attracts plastic particles floating around in the ocean, and harvests them for use, either by the crew to 3D print spare-parts for the craft itself, or perhaps to create furniture pieces for use on board. The three-tiered architecture reflects the owner’s aspiration towards adventure and expedition.

7VDA design 3

MIT’s 4D-printing process was put to use in No Infrastructure Needed by Simon Haynes. Inspired by the Lunar Rover and aimed at inaccessible non-urban environments, the car is self-building. Structural elements blend from the interior to the exterior frame that both supports the body and protects the occupants. A single central hoop acts as a safety frame for the occupants, yet crucially enables the vehicle to be packed compactly for economic crate transportation to remote areas. A refreshingly lightweight and minimal concept; that no infrastructure is needed hints towards a lighter car-footprint than we currently experience.

8VDA design 1

Limbo-final journey, by Florian Kainz, explores the ultimate application of customisation: the interior of a hearse. Linking with the traditions of many of our cultural ancestors of personalising burials by including mementos, Kainz imagines death as an interconnected social-media event – with the response of family and friends generating an algorithm that 3D prints the hearse interior in bio-plastics.

Funeral-goers can add their own messages and items to the interior creation, making the last drive a memorable and inclusive event.

Pilkington Tianqin Bao 2

Winner of the Pilkington-sponsored award ‘Best use of Glazing’ was Tainquin Bao, an ex-Coventry graduate, with Scar. Challenging our obsession with replacing cars every few years, Scar explores a method of 3D-printing new panel elements to replace damage over the lifetime of the vehicle. Bao believes the relationship between man and car can be more meaningful when the car evolves and ages too. Inspired by architectural materials, Scar intersperses the body with copper surface elements that grow an ever-changing patina for an always-unique look. A modular and updateable powertrain system could allow the car to live as long as its owner.

Happie by Yibo Wu takes the Google autonomous car through a refresh to a version 2.0, with a far more open interior architecture. Electro-magnetic ‘cushions’ that have multiple uses such as lighting and storage, can be snapped into the interior allowing a more personalised take on a shared car-ownership model. Wu retains the Google cars’ friendly, approachable aesthetic but adds charm and personality.





Pilkington Sepehr Amirseyedi 1

VDA design 2

Mark Hinton’s Infiniti Autonomous future imagines a new aesthetic for the Japanese company and a move away from mono-volume autonomous cars. Without crash-test requirements why does the car need a conventional windshield, for example. Taking Infiniti’s dynamic sculptural form language to a more extreme solution the result is a an unusual and challenging aesthetic.


Farhana Safa re-imagines the Automotive design process with Kinesis. Previously a neurosurgeon, Farhana looks at the implication of using the tools of a craft as an intuitive creative device. In this case the starting point was a sphere in a CAD package, which was sculpted into the final form influenced by the organic fluidity of liquid-metal alloy, a material that shape-shifts through the application of an electric current. Combined with the re-positioning of packaged components – as an example, an advanced aluminium battery sandwiched within the car’s surfacing – the result is a remarkably fluidic rolling sculpture.

Overall, an inspiring optimism about the future of self-driving transport, alongside some fresh takes on personalisation, innovative use of materials, and design solutions that actively improve our environment.


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