Volkswagen's Integrated Interiors

A project by vehicle design students at London's RCA brought thoughtful visualizations of future market sectors

Vehicle Design students at the Royal College of Art in London, UK, started work on a project sponsored by Volkswagen in October last year. Asked to research and visualize future market sectors and the needs, aspirations and desires of potential users; VW's brief to the students was to create a vehicle which had an innovative, integrated interior to reflect the research the students conducted, in a space that had equal value both in the daytime and at night.

The brief also called for new space concepts for the person/machine interface through new functions and new packaging of components. As a fundamental part, the interior concepts would develop 'take-away' functions which would be integrated in the vehicle and also be used out of the vehicle; contributing towards personalization and individualization. VW also asked that the interior express the appeal of using the individual components as well as the interior as a whole, utilizing light and sensors to create new experiences and develop smart materials with real and virtual value.

Taking into consideration the whole lifecycle of the vehicle, its manufacture, use and disposal, students were divided into five teams: SUV Team Metrofortress, Team Sports, Team Executive, Team Hatchback and Team MPV 'Wigloo'. The students presented their final concepts at the end of November.

The winning team—SUV Team 'Metrofortress' consisting of Hong Yeo, Andrea Mocellin, Tabitha Purathur and Ken Lee on textiles—created a versatile 1+'x' configuration vehicle they hoped would separate itself from the negative stigma of SUVs. Inspired by the 'urban sushi' architectural concept, the 'ring' inside the vehicle can be rotated to generate different configurations. The rotating theme developed throughout the interior, created an entirely new interior design and a genuine 24-hour living space. Because of the importance of the interior, as per the brief, the exterior was completely influenced by the interior structure.

Three students made up Team Sports: Jin-sung Kim, Thomas Smith and Jukka Rautiainen. Kim was awarded the individual prize for his 'Desperate for Joy' typology project, created for middle-aged people. The core idea is a cabin unit within an exterior unit. The separate cabin unit can move freely, protected within the egg-like exterior structure, so users can enjoy the dynamics of driving.

Smith's two-seat 'Rush Hour' fuel-cell eco-sports car proposal features a rollercoaster-inspired interior, where seats float above a 360-degree wrap over glasshouse. This configuration allows the user to see the road rushing beneath them, giving the illusion they are driving at speed. At night the glasshouse performs another function: the glasshouse becomes a blank canvas—a projection screen for animations, brand logos, social networking website Facebook or blog pages. The user can also select their level of privacy by projecting customized window graphics.

Rautiainen's 'Nuorgam' SAV is designed for the sport fishing enthusiast who also enjoys driving. With a purpose-built interior the concept has room to store fishing equipment and doubles as a fishing shelter. The interior also features a sleeping bag integrated into the seat for overnight stays as well as on-board electronics and innovative lighting functions

Students on Team Executive—Magdalena Schmid, Cieran McAamney and Elliot Hawkins—created individual projects. Schmid's project focused on the executive customer with a family in the year 2020. This new luxury segment concentrated on the social development of showing what you give rather than what you have, influencing society and the environment. The design reflects different stages of the day according to the daily cycle of the executive customer and his/her family.

Hawkins' interior was influenced by layers in nature. The seats of the vehicle—which take their inspiration from rose petals—feature independently moving parts to create different shapes depending the time of day and the occupant's mood. The layered theme is continued onto the dash, where each layer has a separate function.

Movement was the central theme of McAamney's Executive concept. The project explored how, through looking at the motion of a ribbon, the occupants in the front and rear can be connected, creating a social environment while adjusting to the users needs at the same time.

Team Hatchback consisted of Bob Romkes, Jonathon Henshall and Dohyung Kim. All three students created a car that can be attached to the home or office. Romkes's interior is divided in a front area (personal office space or driver area) and the rear area (living room or passenger seat) connected through a dynamic ambient lighting system in the rear part of the head rest. The digital IP can also be used as a computer screen and the passenger seat can rotate and be used as a lounge in the living room.

Henshall's interpretation was developed whereby the user can influence their interior by using a portable 3D scanner/camera device to capture images, forms, patterns and colors from the environments they inhabit. New technologies then apply this data as patterns, colors and shapes in specific areas throughout the vehicle interior, making the interior a unique contribution to the space it connects to.

Kim's concept featured a standardized DLO module for easier docking and to optimize space. The cocoon shape of the front seat and an individual dashboard were designed to be a comfortable space for young family customers. Material used for the floor is inspired by a jellyfish material from a textile student.

Team MPV was made up of Ralph Tayler-Webb, Mary Crisp, Carl Saunders and Kyu Han-Choi. Their research exposed the need for a dedicated family MPV which brings the family together using an interlocking structure and versatile seating combinations. Communication is encouraged through a Penguin-themed robot, which interacts verbally with the family. This Volkswagen personality, named 'Wigloo', is the heart of the car and also a direct connection with the home. Wigloo's helpful support, intuitive drawer storage solutions and uncluttered interface creates a stress minimizing atmosphere.

Wigloo also stimulates the imagination by continually adapting and developing the environment within the vehicle. Using the latest in ink and material technology, the interior textile designs are bought to life—from a colorful garden by day, to a glowing dynamism by night. In addition, Wigloo can create moving imagery on the window embedded LCD's to encourage an awareness of the outdoors.

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