Why mobility of the future may actually help foster human connection
A/D/O – a New York City multipurpose creative space established by MINI in 2017 – is set in a brick building with generous windows in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. The hub is named after Amalgamated Drawing Office – the secret design office of Sir Alec Issigonis, who developed the first MINI automobile in 1959. Built with the same spirit of curiosity and innovation, the intention behind A/D/O is for it to serve as a platform for creatives to explore the future of design.
True to that mission, which extends into projects such as MINI Living and start-up URBAN-X, the company turned to Amsterdam-based Random Studio to devise an installation marking the global launch of the new MINI Electric Vehicle. Titled Perpetuum, the work – more specifically, the kinetic landscape – invites its viewers in to imagine the future of mobility, harnessing the the vibrancy and dynamism of the Big Apple.
We spoke with Random Studio’s founder Daan Lucas about what travel may look like tomorrow, designing for authentic connection in a time defined by social media and, simultaneously, how to transpose physical experiences into the digital realm to reach a broader audience.
What was the brief from A/D/O and how, as designers, did you interpret it?
DAAN LUCAS: A/D/O invited us to design an installation under the Periscope area in the main atrium, themed around the future of mobility. We aimed to distil the experiential components of travelling and evaluated how the electric car would be the next step towards a truer travel experience – one without the noise and environmental footprint. We were inspired by our common experience of sitting in a car and gazing at the landscape passing by, dreaming.
We imagine mobility will intertwine physical transportation with virtual telepresence
We imagine mobility will become a more multidimensional field that intertwines physical transportation with virtual telepresence; whether one needs to travel somewhere is determined by the technologies that allow us to connect. We can imagine widespread on-demand, shared and clean transportation services on one hand, and individual, fun, driving experiences that allow you to escape and unwind on the other.
Hopefully the future of mobility will bring us together, allowing us to easily visit each other in the real world.
How does the installation relate to MINI’s new product and the brand’s values?
We as Random Studio really do align with the direction of the brand: looking at how to use technology in the physical space to connect people with their environment and, more importantly, with each other. It seems that, these days, people look at their screens more than to each other or the world they live in. We support any initiative that invites people back into the real world, where we navigate effortlessly, where we sense, love and live.
The more time we spend in the virtual the harder it is to be present in the physical
When I attended the press preview at A/D/O, a large amount of the online influencers invited chose Perpetuum in particular as the backdrop of their photos and videos. Did you design with influencer culture and Instagram in mind? How do you create an installation that triggers digital engagement?
We didn’t design with either in mind. We do want people to connect with the work we do, to feel something and contribute. This is why the installation is designed in a way that leaves room for people to enter and become part of it. Although we acknowledge the power of Instagram, we as a studio focus on creating spaces that surprise and leave a sense of wonder. We are primarily interested in designing experiences that invite people to actually connect with each other and to the world we live in. Usually, when the experience is powerful enough, the publicity will naturally follow. This is the formula that has worked for us so far – we are weary of social-media-first approaches. Platforms like Instagram offer simulations of connections: usually not vulnerable, not real – often time, they leave people feeling lonely. Moreover, the more time we spend in the virtual the harder it is to be present in the physical.
The revolving panels are organized into three rings that each rotate at a slightly different speed around the central light source. This, combined with visitors being able to enter the sculpture and choose their own vantage point, results in unique compositions and expressions of colour that do give everyone a slightly different experience.
How important is it to you as a studio, and for MINI as a brand, to design/present a work that is broadly covered on social media and the online sphere in general? Why?
Most of the work we create is temporary and lives in the physical world. Although we design for this realm, we do recognize that we can extend the aura of the works into the online sphere. The vast majority of our audience will not be able to be present physically, so we do invest in documentation and experiment with different ways that we can connect the digital experience with the physical one.
Perpetuum will be on view at A/D/O by MINI in Brooklyn through 10 March 2020.