Chris Bangle, the oft-maligned but undoubtedly talented automotive designer behind some of the '90s and '00s best BMWs, has started up his own firm since leaving the purely automotive design world upon departure from BMW in 2009. The new outfit, Chris Bangle Associates, is turning its eye beyond just cars and transportation to design in every segment of life, with futurism, innovation, and utility at the forefront.
It's perhaps surprising then--or not at all, depending on your perspective--that Chris Bangle Associates' latest design contest is automotive-themed. Or, at least, somewhat so.
The contest is centered around the prologue to Bangle's new book, Peter Teuful: A Tale of Car Design in 3 Parts, wherein Bangle introduces his vision of the future of cars and their design and function in the year 2037 and beyond.
As Bangle puts it, "I have written a fiction book about Car Design [sic] and the prologue takes place 25 years in the future. It contains some concepts I have been working on, and this contest is to see what YOU would make of them."
For the full details on the contest, which involves bringing the six vehicles described in the prologue to life on the designer's table, visit the official site here.
But what about this book? It's not often that prominent people within the industry delve into the future of car design, particularly in a fiction-novel format. So at first glance, we were very intrigued by Bangle's new book. And then we read the prologue.
It turns out that writing, especially writing creatively, is a difficult endeavor, and one not necessarily suited to everyone's talents--even those with huge talent in the subject matter of the writing. This book looks to be a perfect example of that.
Overlooking the typos (though good copy is clean copy), the themes, methods, and styles employed are frustrating. Obtuse in jargon, clumsy in dialogue, and blatant in exposition, the prologue doesn't prime the reader for more; in fact it makes me fear the rest of the book will be even worse (though I am still curious what the hell a beagle on a green ocean has to do with anything). This should be, after all, the book putting its best foot forward.
Coming from a car lover, science fiction fan, and writer, that's strong criticism; I'm willing to overlook many faults in the pursuit of new ideas. Writing, like designing cars, is a skill as much as an art, and here there's a lack of both.
It's not without redeeming qualities, of course, and the design ideas in the book are genuinely intriguing. Take, for instance, the "thinbus," inspired by Syd Mead's paintings: a gigantic people-moving bus that functions like a road train, but which takes up barely the width of a scooter at ground level. It's a T-shaped vehicle held upright by massive spinning gyroscopes, driven by electricity, and fueled by hydrogen. Very cool. Probably impractical and incredibly expensive, but who knows what the next two-and-a-half decades will bring? Bangle's idea of divorcing the car itself from its avatar-like self-projection qualities through the semi-sentient "Axel," is also one worth exploring.
If you can suffer through the repetitious internal monologue of the lead character, the heavy-handed attempts at humor, and the generally confusing use of made-up names and terms, it's worth a read for the other designs described--and perhaps for the general outline of the future of transportation and car design as Bangle sees it--provided you can pick them out from among the literary weeds.