Spaces on Wheels: Work in Progress with f°am Studio
Our Playful Research project, Spaces on Wheels, explores a driverless future. But we couldn’t think holistically about the future mobility without translating our research into design. That’s why we teamed up with f°am Studio to explore how we can repurpose the traditional car to create a more fulfilling life on wheels. Below, you’ll find a sneak peek into their design process that—render by render—turned into the seven designs that make up Spaces on Wheels.
In 2014, educational blogger and YouTuber CGP Grey stated that “to describe self-driving cars as cars at all is like calling the first cars mechanical horses.” The real potential inherent in self-driving cars isn’t our ability to drive without having our hands on the wheel. It’s what we may be able to do or experience within that new space of mobile, freed-up time that could emerge alongside self-driving cars.
In a way, this unexplored potential was the starting point for Spaces on Wheels. In SPACE10’s exploration stage, we asked ourselves how we could interact with each other and experience cities inside a car when we’re suddenly no longer focused on getting from A to B. Our initial thoughts? “Flip the idea of a traditional car on its head.” “It should at least have wheels.” And “the cars should feel very soft and human.”
For f°am Studio, on the other hand, the starting point was a little bit different. It was about imagining the future as a conversation; making room for individual expression; and designing for the conversations we want to be having, not necessarily the ones that dominate tech dialogue today.
Read more thoughts from f°am Studio about their vision and process below.
Our Vision of The Future and How to Design It
“We envision the future as a conversation. It’s the ebb and flow of daily life. It’s never totalitarian and yet it’s also not completely a free-for-all, because everything is connected in complex ways that enable uniqueness and uniformity simultaneously. We see it as inclusive and open, but at the same time quite human. The future makes room for you to express your desires—whether you want to run with the pack or be a lone wolf.
When visually exploring the future as conversation, it became apparent to us that it had to be approachable and welcoming. But it had to also really say something. It’s easy to fall back on the usual tropes of formidable, uber-slick and sci-fi driven designs (and in many ways, this is justifiable.) But rather than directly following those aesthetic rules, we asked ourselves: what was the conversation that we wanted to be having?”
Universal Standard: A Modular System
“While we were interested in exploring what the future could look like, it was equally important for us to open up the discussion about how this future can be lived in and worked with. How are these spaces to be constructed and used? How do we support and encourage both manufacturers and individuals equally—and take these spaces and adapt them to be realistically lived in? How can we encourage the usage of these spaces to support a variety of unique personalities, specific purposes and individual aesthetics? With these questions, we set out to develop a modular system that creates a platform for living.
Starting with the notion that we can create a universal standard consisting of modular blocks of automotive space, the modular system we embraced allows for spatial customisation which enables all kinds of uses. This, in turn, allows for freedom within our designs and for the look and usage to vary depending on the manufacturer’s, designer’s or user’s style and purpose. The space of a local, grassroots cafe, for example, can now differ wildly to that of a successful international retailer—yet still use the same ruleset.
Following this, we arrived at a formal manifestation of mobility that is a diverse and pluralistic open system—in other words, a platform where individual expressions can unfold.”
“We defined our modules as 60x60cm elements in size, which enabled us to add up to four of these modules alongside each other while remaining slim enough to fit onto conventional roads. According to our vision, each module is motorised to allow for design without having to spare additional engine space on top of our platform. Each wheel can be rotated in multiple axes, so the vehicle can manoeuvre traffic smoothly despite its size. The space is predominantly extruded vertically into a comfortable room that is more than 2 metres high. This will not only make room for everyday situations experienced in those spaces, but – as a consequence – ensure the most possible usage of the area. Plus, it would possibly reduce traffic congestion; after all, when you emphasise height over width, the cars themselves don’t take up as much space on the road.”
“In the expression and presentation of these ideas, the background environment became a big part of the design. We needed it to give context and help us establish a connection with the idea of the future we were exploring.
We approached the environment from the same modular angle and wanted to form these spaces without being too prescriptive and restrictive. We arrived at the idea of creating what we coined ‘architextures’; collages of architectural forms and materials, pieced together to imagine universal spaces as opposed to precisely recreating the feel of existing ones.”
“For us, design is a process of exploration that can be both confrontational and playful. When we create, we work in a very iterative fashion. It’s important to wander into these things freely with a playfully excited manner, and then analyse the implications of each action every step of the way.
It’s a conversation that requires us to ask ourselves, ‘how does this make us feel? What is this communicating? How will this be utilised? Is this too far out, or is it not far enough?’
When exploring these spaces, we investigated a wide range of avenues that piqued our interest—ranging from the safe and expected to the absurd and wonderfully hilarious. Through this way of working, we begin to refine our creations. By asking ourselves, ‘what happens if we do this?’ we are then able to respond with the seemingly unattainable benefit of hindsight. This is where the real discussion begins.”