Although there is probably nothing that has had a bigger impact on the urban landscape than the automobile, for the most part, automobile companies tend to focus on the vehicles they produce more than the environments they operate in.
Yet this is changing, in instances, for reasons ranging from social responsibility to what will be wrought by full autonomy.
One company that is looking to architecture of a non-automotive sort is MINI. According to Esther Bahne, head of Strategy and Innovation at the company, “We’re working on our own very distinct interpretation of co-living. Our aim is to enable a genuine sense of community, opening doors and creating public space.”
MINI LA project
They’re doing this with what they call the MINI LIVING Urban Cabin, which is the development of housing in a very limited space.
Last week, for example, for the LA Design Festival, they built a living unit—consisting of a sleeping area, a bathroom, kitchen, and a space that is essentially an architect’s choice—on a surface area of just 15-square meters.
They’re creating these structures so that they’re local (the MINI designers worked with LA’s FreelandBuck architects), having created others in London and New York, and planning others for Beijing and Tokyo.
What’s more, Bahne goes on to say, “Our installations and visionary formats seek to explore a whole new range of possibilities in the creative use of space, and we’re now putting what we’ve learned into practice in the form of real-life construction projects.
“In Shanghai we’re currently working on our first hub with more than 50 apartments complete with shared and public space: this is due to open in April next year.”
While this might seem as though MINI is making a stretch here, that’s not the case inasmuch as one of the core MINI design principles is “creative use of space” in its vehicles, a principle that can be deployed in architectural executions.
Incidentally: about that 15-square meters. That’s approximately the footprint of two MINI Countryman models.
Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”
Although the RAV4 has plenty of heritage in the small crossover segment, competition has gotten a whole lot tougher, so Toyota has made significant changes to the fourth-generation model.
Once the playground of exotic car makers, the definition of a niche vehicle has expanded to include image vehicles for mainstream OEMs, and specialist models produced on high-volume platforms.