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February 9, 2005 6:43 AM   Subscribe

MIT Media Labs' concept car project - redefining automotive design and thought, overseen by William J. Mitchell and Frank Gehry [PDF]...via Don Norman's Concept Cars essay...
posted by tpl1212 (20 comments total)

 
That top one looks like a fancy faucet.
posted by Vulpyne at 7:05 AM on February 9, 2005


That's some ugly ass cars right there.
posted by PenDevil at 7:07 AM on February 9, 2005


Ummm, What in God's name is this?
posted by casu marzu at 7:16 AM on February 9, 2005


That top one looks like a fancy faucet.

It's actually a fancy clothes hanger.
posted by casu marzu at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2005


casu, that's the "old mattress pad mobile". think of the possibilities.
posted by recurve at 7:28 AM on February 9, 2005


The concept of "soft cars" is intriguing. I imagine they would be less dangerous, but only if everyone had one.
posted by fungible at 7:30 AM on February 9, 2005


What awful designs, the body of a car is the least important part, it just needs to keep you dry when it rains. A good design finds the best way to do this without interfering with your vision, having parts that will come in hurt you in an accident, being too heavy or too wind resistant. Many of these designs look like they block your view. They also do not have bumpers, first time you parallel park in the city those plastic fenders will get broken. If you want a light-weight, safe car body, start with a nascar car. Very light-weight and safe (they roll ten times or get t-boned at 100 mph and the driver just walks away). As a passenger car they could be even lighter, the axles and brakes wouldn't have to handle 200 mph or 600 horsepower.
posted by 445supermag at 7:49 AM on February 9, 2005


The problem I have with most "futuristic" cars is that they never have any trunk/holding space. Do they assume everything will be delivered? How are you supposed to go to a warehouse store or do grocery shopping for a family? Heaven forbid you want to buy a TV and bring it home that day.
posted by evening at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2005


Ok, I'll admit, that was a really funny episode of the Simpsons, having Danny Davito be Homer's brother was great, and Homer building the car was funny. But the car FAILED, people. IT FAILED. So why did someone think it was a good idea to make a real version of it?

I can see each and every one of those playing La Cucaratcha
posted by qDot at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2005


evening,

Exactly or any cup holders or glove boxes or places to put change or ashtrays or anything, if I had to drive that car I would be neck deep in coffee cups and old newspapers and umbrellas in two days, it would just be a fucking transparent wastebasket on wheels. What if you want to put something on the roof while you take out your keys? You'll spend half the day fishing around under that car for your soda.

Also, attn nerds: future != wireframe cad-cam eggs, dig?
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2005


What's up with the mashed up pile of french fries? Who the fuck would want to drive that? This has got to be a joke...
posted by Debaser626 at 8:58 AM on February 9, 2005


Though it may seem like it, the class and cars that came out of it are not meant as a joke. Here's an MIT press release and an article about the exhibit, and here it is on the department's official class list for spring 2005.
posted by whatzit at 9:43 AM on February 9, 2005


Looks like MIT is Frank Gehry's sandbox where quixotic ideas are trumpeted as new thinking. Shouldn't they be working on a hovercar (with cup holders) so people don't have to spend countless hours in traffic?
posted by disgruntled at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2005


I agree that none of these designs are particularly attractive from a practical standpoint (or even that of taste), but that's not really their purpose. Reality is very ad hoc, but this can stifle some kinds of innovation. Theoretical, schematized designs like these are usually ridiculous in sum, but the ridiculousness of the individual concepts and criteria involved is probably distributed with a wide variance. I don't see us all driving coathanger-carpet-eggmobiles in ten years, but I bet it will at least provoke some car designers in the real world to think about the design criteria involved.

Noting Frank Gehry's involvement, I think that there's another strain here that needs discussion. Architecture education (and that of its close cousin, design) focuses far more on art than engineering, and there seems to be a substantial divide between architecture in practice and architecture in academia. Academic architecture is more of a form of art and a method of criticism than it is an enabler of practical development. Most of the academic architectural projects that I have seen are fundamentally utopian, in that they ignore practical considerations which would inhibit artistic expression. Sadly, this approach doesn't work in the real world, but some projects built by transforming its results are truly breathtaking, like Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao. Not every building could or should be built this way, of course, and not every academic design is a success aesthetically, but sometimes interesting failures are better than drab successes. To put it another way, which do you prefer: Liebeskind's original design for the WTC site or Childs' modified version? And would you really trade The Gherkin for a less obtrusive but blander design?
posted by monocyte at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2005


monocyte - make that link an FPP! Hilarious. BTW- Happy Lent, everybody.

Lent, lent, lent!
Yaay Lent!

I am hungry.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:08 AM on February 9, 2005


Great visibility to see all your fellow drivers laugh at your car. Great visibility to see them crashing into each other during said guffaws.
posted by uni verse at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2005


the class and cars that came out of it are not meant as a joke.

Of course they weren't. That's the very definition of unintentional humor.

Most of the academic architectural projects that I have seen are fundamentally utopian, in that they ignore practical considerations which would inhibit artistic expression. Sadly, this approach doesn't work in the real world, but some projects built by transforming its results are truly breathtaking, like Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao.

I'm not sure I buy the idea that practical considerations and art are at cross-purposes. People have been constructing practical buildings for millenia that also are beautiful to look at. The idea that practical buildings and beautiful buildings are mutually exclusive is the product of destructive twentieth-century dogmas.
posted by casu marzu at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2005


Good points, Monocyte.

The essay I found the MIT car link from (Don Norman's "Concept Cars") says basically the same things:

"the MIT Media Lab's concept car project...has reinvented the wheel -- literally -- putting engine and suspension on the wheels, freeing the designer of traditional constraints and allowing the study of novel configurations and flexible, changeable interior configurations....Want to design properly? Take concept cars seriously as design prototypes. Explore those constraints. Playfulness is a wonderful design stance that can produce out-of-the box breakthroughs."

I wouldn't call these "futuristic" cars...rather explorations of alternate automotive design and functionality. I doubt seriously that any of the folks on this team really expect to pitch these, as is, to Pontiac...only to have them say things like "where's the trunk?" "where are the cup holders."

To which, the MIT designers would slap themselves on their foreheads for designing such "ugly-ass" production vehicles.
posted by tpl1212 at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2005


Ghery is also responsible for MIT's new Stata Center. If it looks wierd in these photos, beleive me, it's worse in person.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2005


I'm not sure I buy the idea that practical considerations and art are at cross-purposes. People have been constructing practical buildings for millenia that also are beautiful to look at.
I didn't mean to imply this; the whole concept of architecture is based around the idea that the two are compatible. I will say that there are optima of beauty and functionality that haven't been explored yet, and that reaching them will require an expedition through zones where the two are still at tension.

The idea that practical buildings and beautiful buildings are mutually exclusive is the product of destructive twentieth-century dogmas.
Can you expand on this? Which ones in particular?


Interestingly enough, after I last posted I noticed this. Maybe germane, maybe not; I've only skimmed it.
posted by monocyte at 5:11 PM on February 9, 2005


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