from USA

May 2001 design news
by N. Rain Noe

Living in Your Parent's Garage

Interesting design concept spotted at this year's 2001 New York International Automobile Show: make the car like a home.

With hopes of appealing to the young "Generation Y" demographic, Nissan's funky little Chappo concept car is "a living room on wheels," explains Nissan's head of design Shiro Nakamura, citing market research suggesting Generation Yers are more at home in their cars than other generations.

Thus the Chappo, "designed from the inside out," includes seats that fold in such a configuration as to resemble sofas in a conversation pit. Computer screens in the dash and one that folds down from the ceiling allow you to watch DVDs or play video games. The rear window contains a motorized sliding screen, so you crazy kids can play spin the bottle, watch naughty movies or smoke your hashish with some privacy.


Honda's Model X Concept car is shooting for the same thing, described by one of its designers as "an apartment on wheels." Believe it or not, research included sending the designers to hang out in frat houses, college dorms, and tagging along on beach trips with young people. ("Dude! You're getting sand in my CAD!") The Model X features a flat floor (again going for the uni-directional Conversation-Pit-thing), extra wide doors for lounging half-in, half-out of the car, and an interior that can "withstand the worst a young guy can throw at it -- mud, blood, sweat and spills," says a designer.

Mazda's also got a concept along these lines, though it's still under wraps. The name? "The Secret Hideout." "This car emphasizes relaxation," said Phil Martens, a product director for Mazda, dispelling my notion that it emphasizes being a fugitive from the law. "It gives young drivers and their friends a place that they can call their own away from home."

No more details are available on Mazda's product, though I'm guessing it will be similar to the Chappo and the Model X. Both of which come with a handy box in the dashboard to hide pornography. Well, the designers actually call it a "glove compartment," but you and I know what it's really for.

Also, check out QuickTime VR images of the NY Auto Show's most popular models at:

Metal of Honor

Aluminum, the relatively inexpensive Miracle Metal, has been used by everyone from soda companies to jet manufacturers to Mafia enforcers seeking a more lightweight bat.

"Aluminum by Design: Jewelry to Jets," an exhibition currently running at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, tells the tale of "aluminum's quest for identity." Objects on display run the gamut from Victorian jewelry to automobile frames, vacuum cleaners to airplane propellors. And, of course, furniture, from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, Isamu Noguchi, Marcel Breuer, Frank Gehry, et al. Also features objects from fashion designers Salvatore Ferragamo and Paco Rabanne.

(Conspicuously absent from the show are the battered, deadbeat bookies that Paulie Walnuts and Big Pussy once taught lessons to. Remember, the Cooper-Hewitt is a high-class operation.)

"But There's a Draft Down Here."

A recent trend in seating is to make couches, chairs and tables low. I think shorter furniture is just a scam by the manufacturers, trying to save money on materials, but whaddaya gonna do. The zeitgeist is the zeitgeist.


American Architects Suck for the 9th Year in a Row!

Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, two Swiss architects,will be awarded the Pritzker Prize this week at a ceremony in Virginia.

For those of you just tuning in to the design world, the Pritzker is basically the highest honor you can receive in the profession of architecture. More importantly, it comes with a $100,000 grant, because Honor doesn't pay the rent.

Switzerland-based Meuron and Herzog designed London's much-ballyhooed Tate Modern museum project, as well as various acclaimed hospitals, sports centers, wineries and other museums across Europe and the States. Current projects include the Walker Art Center expansion in Minneapolis, and the pair is also collaborating with Rem Koolhas on Manhattan's soon-to-be-built Astor Hotel, developed by Ian Schrager.

Previous Pritzker winners include Frank O. Gehry, Tadeo Ando, and Robert Venturi. Incidentally, this is the ninth straight year the Pritzker has been awarded to a non-American. What can I say, we suck.

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