2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior

What is the link between a Swedish train, a BMW concept car and a fabric firm from Denmark?

2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from www.dailytonic.com
2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from http://www.dailytonic.com

A chance encounter via my day job led me to to discover the link between the Danish fabric firm Kvadrat and the Bavarian automobile manufacturer, BMW.  To my knowledge the two collaborations have not led to Kvadrat supplying fabrics for the production cars. It´s not that it´s not possible. The same firm has supplied material for a Swedish train and if a fabric and survive public transport it can survive life in a car.

2009 BMW Efficient Dynamics car. Image from Kvadrat a/s, Denmark.
2009 BMW Efficient Dynamics car. Image from Kvadrat a/s, Denmark.

The first item here was shown at the Milan International Furniture Show.  The resultant design is definitely at the art end of the spectrum, with conical volumes emanating from the car´s apertures like light turned into fabric. The material was designed by Giulo Ridolfo and the arrangement by Patricia Urquiola of Kvadrat. I am not sure who has gained most from this. Quite likely BMW owners are sitting on Kvadrat fabrics in their houses and, more than likely, Kvadrat customers will be in the market for the kind of car BMW is selling.

In 2009 , Kvadrat provided the fabric for the BMW Efficient Dynamics concept car.  The fabric has a texture that contrasts with the smoothness of the rest of the forms. It´s hard to believe this is from 2009. As a side note, the images here are much clearer and readable than the print images I have seen where the high contrasts and deep shades make the forms flat and hard to read. I am afraid the print media undersold this interior and the fabric´s quality was entirely lost.

2009 Arland Express, Sweden. Image from Kvarat a/s, Denmark.
2009 Arland Express, Sweden. Image from Kvarat a/s, Denmark.

Here (above) is the fabric and interior design of the 2009 Arlanda Express train in Sweden. If you are trying to get from Stockholm Central to Arlanda airport this the way to go (which might not please BMW). The comparison with the Danish rail´s (DSB) latest interiors is startling. DSB went with unrelieved cool colours which, on a dark and cold morning can lead to very depressing feelings. I wish more trains had these sorts of designs.This interior shows how you can use warm tones without making the interior garish. A few orange lamps lift the feeling of the whole space while the underlying forms are simple and easy on the eye. If you can´t decorate, use colour and fabric.

All of this is evidence for me that colour and fabric can have a really powerful impact on how one perceives an interior and thus a whole vehicle. I reckon that if car firms want to lure more customers to their models they need to be a lot more creative with their fabrics than they now are; while a good fabric costs more than a mediocre leather, the advantage of making a sale would justify the extra cost, perhaps more so than spending big on hard trim or certain marginal features that are only there because a spread sheet engineer decreed they should be.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior”

  1. I rather regret that, when I had my Citroen, retrimmed I wasn’t more adventurous. The conservative part of me decided that I should do something in the spirit, if not letter, of originality so, instead of the notoriously short life French nylon velour used in the 70s, I chose Alcantara. It looks fine, but maybe a nice bright chintz …..

    1. Good quality velour (blue, red or brown depending on exterior colour) would have been ideal.

      Speaking of Citroens, I saw a BX on my way to work this morning – the first in a very long time. Back in those days (early to mid-80’s) most seats on Citroens (including the CX) were covered with very coarse fabrics, which was probably harder wearing than what they used in decades prior but looked odd when combined with the cheap looking plastics used elsewhere inside.

    2. I had a mid 70s Renault 5 and an early 80s Peugeot 405 and their upholstery was woeful with Halfords seat covers going on after 3 years to hide the bald patches and tears. The BX we got in 1986 had better lasting fabric, though a bit coarse as you say. It was the rest of the car that wasn’t made to last unfortunately – hence the rarity of your sighting.

      Thinking of my 1996 Audi, still more or less in one piece, it is amazing how tolerant we were of the frailty of so many cars in the pre-galvanised days. I guess the fact that it was inevitable that they would rust away in a short time set a BENCHMARK (relevant topic) for the longevity of the rest of the vehicle.

    3. Good point about bodywork rust and seat covers. If the visible parts start to fall apart quickly, how can you possibly trust that the really important bits underneath (those you have to rely on without having to understand how they work) won’t let you down just as quick?
      If I remember correctly VW made a lot of noise around galvanisation back in the 80’s, before moving on to improving the quality (actual as well as perceived) of all contact points inside, seat fabrics included. So while the electronics and mechanicals remained (relatively) iffy in many cases (too many?), anyone who begrudges VAG their reputation should bear in mind the amount of money and effort that went into setting the BENCHMARK in other components that were too often neglected by their competitors.

  2. I admit that serial French car purchases made me so ‘philosophical’ about the essential transience of car ownership that it took me a long time to appreciate that maybe VW were getting on the right track by setting certain BENCHMARK priorities – not necessarily the sexy ones, but very attractive none the less.

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