June 30, 2003 – On this the last day of June I found myself on a train to Turin to check out the graduating projects of the students at IAAD, Istituto d'Arte Applicata e Design (Institute of Applied Arts and Design), Turin. I say I found myself in this situation because the heat during these days was so obscene that you literally try to leave your body and dream of a cool breeze on a distant shore. The heat only increased once I entered the exhibition hall where the IAAD show was held and the walls were painted black, with no air-conditioning...WOW!
To kick off the following hours of perspiration was the Aprilia sponsored project. Following the theme of the exhibition, "Nuovo Lusso" (New Luxury), the mission of the students was to create new forms of luxury for Aprilia scooters.
To inspire the students and the viewers at the show there were a several generations of the Scaraboo and one Atlantic 500 showing off Aprilia's quality in both design and production.
Second year and graduating third year students participated in this research and developed some designs that may have appealed to Aprilia's brief; a HPE concept between 300cc and 800cc, with a fixed motor, large storage space for at least 2 helmets and baggage, tech support, medium to long haul trips, and high quality finishes…or any alternative 'out there' ideas!
From variations on the theme of 'sculpture' to defining 'luxurious' safety details the range of what 'new luxury' means to young designers today was different for each participant. For example, Kang Taehoon chose to suggest very specific detailing that rendered his scooter, 'Tita', not only aesthetically more elegant but also psychologically more precious. Giulio Pasquali believes that riding alone and riding in company are two different situations that require separate seating arrangement. He created 'Andromeda', a dual level scooter that offers more storage space once an extra passenger is on board.
Several students such as Bjoern Koop and Eric Cognasso decided to approach the vehicle as a sculpted object and played more with the form value of luxury than the functional value. For Koop's 'Progetto B' it meant interesting shapes that flow around the rider while Cognasso tended to a suspended 'Brillante' form with a motorbike edge. Another student, Marco Sciarpa, searched for a lower simple stance solution with similar sculptural ideas veering towards a luxury product design language with his 'Essenza'. The remaining students followed the classical scooter configuration with the honest desire to simply improve what already exists.
Although my first impression was that the projects seemed a little thin on content and expression once I turned the corner I realized that there was a clear explanation. Not only had these students designed several new luxury scooters but they had been given the double duty of designing none other than a 'Nuovo Lusso' Lancia as well.
Surely enough the walls were lined with panels of sketches, information, renderings, and yet to my disappointment there were no scale models. The heat increased as I continued my virtual tour of how the future of Lancia branding and perhaps the revival of the 1976 Lancia HPE (high performance estate) might look. The students' work was cut out for them with a brief from Lancia asking for a new car concept designed from the interior out and embodying aesthetic and ethic luxury. Underlining the project was the philosophy that modern luxury comes from elegance attained by simplicity while integrating that 'sporty' DNA of past Lancias. As Lancia has been trying to do for the past few years they asked the student to testify to Lancia's commitment to being the trend in luxury and not simply a trend-setter. The target, as many manufacturers are catering to nowadays, is the 'New Luxury' market. A growing mass market of knowledgeable, demanding, and sophisticated consumers who through communication, information and a generally higher disposable income tend to desire objects which are not only durable and affordable but elegant and make a personal statement.
Giorgio Pirolo created the 'Effusior', a fusion of two niche markets, the SUV and Coupe. Decidedly the direction that many manufacturers may be considering, this fusion of car types is functional and practical. It appeals to two distinct target groups that have a lot in common yet only time will tell if this 'SUC' (Sports Utility Coupe) segment will succeed. The real appeal in Pirolo's project, however, was the glass floor under the dashboard area. Glass has always been associated with luxury and fusing its natural visual lightness with its physical resistance Pirolo seems to have tapped into an innovative and functional material.
Fabio Cimino chose space as the ultimate luxury of the future. His 'Limousine Plus' is an extravagant yet private vehicle that symbolizes luxury and comfort on the inside while trying to have a quite industrial standoffish presence on the outside.
More like a futuristic carriage where the driver sits alone at the front while passengers are free to move around the 'cabin', the layout may seem outlandish. However, envision the heavily taxed impenetrable cities of the future and this new wave 'commuting' solution makes sense!
Lancia 'Atmos' designed by Vincenzo Laino has very poetic origins. He wished to enhance the driving/traveling experience by creating an interior inspired by an 'English Drawing Room'.
Laino retains that this kind of social environment would create an atmosphere where people can share experiences and time while moving from point A to point B.
The asymmetric interior helps this communication and constantly refreshes the passenger's perspective as it is adjustable and flexible.
The Lancia 'Ademas' inspired by the Greek word for diamonds, or invincible, is composed of volumes of glass to increase the transparency effect and make the vehicle visually light. Developed by Laurent Narducci the 'Ademas' has an almost 360º view from the interior where he has designed the Lancia 'sofa' seating inspired by Edra's Flap 'divano', giving freedom of movement and seating to its passengers.
Seeking a pure interpretation of 'in and out' car design Roman Kozak simply chose to develop a sophisticated 'cross-over', a synthesis of dynamism, aggressiveness, elegance, and composure. Kozak believes that comfort and elegance are strong Lancia values that equal new luxury.
'Harmonia', the seventh muse in ancient Greek mythology inspires Emanuele Vilella's proposal to design a vehicle that balances elements that could be in conflict.
Vilella attempts to create this balance between a sporty aggressive exterior and a large interior space by maintaining traditional Lancia elements in the styling while offering modern Italian furniture design cues on the inside.
Marco Sciarpa is of the opinion that in an increasingly oppressive and chaotic reality we progressively need more places to relax, we need a personal space where we can express ourselves freely. Ergo Lancia "Ego', a space where you can say and do as you like while seated in four comfortable armchairs set atop a natural fiber carpet with portals for music, scents, and light to sooth the mind and set the mood.
Eric Cognasso's three key factors when conceiving his Lancia 'Nero' were Luxury, Sporty, and Comfort. For him 'Nero' or black is the color of luxury and austerity thus freely used on his interior concept. A hybrid of a crossover, a coupe, and an SUV, 'Nero' is not necessarily a compromise but a composition of what Lancia can offer, a sporty versatile vehicle with style.
While the Lancia 'Ademas' may have a 360º view Giulio Pasquali's Lancia 'Deneb' aims to appeal to a 360º lifestyle. A very low slow extra-long sporty coupe the 'Deneb' is designed to satisfy the demands of a multifaceted user who is not only sporty but also into sports thus requires an interior space that can handle large loads or even a sleeping configuration. Pasquali claims that increasing the utility of a regular coupe facilitates the justification of the purchase of such a vehicle…good point!
Bjoern Koop parallels new luxury with the likes of Philippe Starck, Marc Newson, and Jasper Morrison, who see new luxury as simply giving life to our thoughts. Beautiful shapes and super quality with a good dose of emotion could in fact be a simple answer to Lancia's brief. Taking forms that are familiar to the user, such as Lancia Stratos, McLaren F1 and Citroen Airdream, Koop designed his 'X-Dream', a formal dreamscape.
The purchase of a Lancia 'Desma' is an act of personal gratification for Lancia customers as seen by Giovanni Patimo. Once again the idea of an aggressively sporty exterior and comfortable interior return as icons of what is new luxury where the consumer is an educated, cultured, and sophisticated middle to high income individual.
Lastly, Kang Taehoon's Lancia 'X' proposes a 'visible technology' solution to new luxury. Inspired by modern architecture 'visible technology' means less obstructing mechanisms and more personal space on the interior. Another interpretation of the combination SUV-Coupe, a.k.a. SUC, Lancia 'X' uses extensive amounts of glass adding to the feeling of lightness created by a visible chasis.
I had searched high and low and found that the students at IAAD believe, like many in the business, that luxury has taken a new and definitive step towards becoming an automotive mass-market reality. The challenge now that this market is open for business and hungry for options in how to cater to its customers.
Two main directions suggested by the projects on show by IAAD students at the Automobile Muesum of Torino point to sporty exterior/comfortable interior and SUC solutions. The first option, 'sporty/comfy', has been revisited many times and never quite satisfied, while the second, SUC, seems to neither have the charisma of a coupe or the presence of a SUV. Perhaps, only through the value added to interior vehicle design, as envisioned by Lancia, can the quotient of 'new luxury' be increased significantly. Nonetheless, as seen in the Aprilia projects BEAUTY, an important aspect of luxury, could be found and defined in the details. The verdict is that there are miles and kilometers of road to be covered, happy travels!
IAAD website: www.iaad.it
Hannah MacMurray is Creative Director at the design idea development company hidesign based in Milan, Italy.