A pedestrian is walking carefree down the middle of a multi-lane street. Even when an oncoming automobile approaches, he does not veer from his path. The car drives quickly and autonomously towards the pedestrian. But then it takes a sudden turn and avoids him. Traffic flows entirely without traffic lights, people at the steering wheel and streets being separated from sidewalks. This is enabled by the digital street surface through which all traffic participants communicate.
This scenario originates from a concept developed by Danish architectural firm BIG as part of their entry for the 2010 architecture competition Audi Urban Future Award. This idea may be only a vision, but Bjarke Ingels, founder and partner of BIG, has a clear picture of the future city: “If I imagine a city in 25 years, the street can change within one single day multiple times: from a pedestrian area to a highway, from the city square to meadow.” This hypothesis of a street without limits is now at Design Miami/, translated into the interactive, three-dimensional LED installation “Urban Future”.
For Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management for Marketing and Sales at AUDI AG, the installation makes the visitor experience the vision of a connected future: “The exhibit answers one of the most fascinating questions of the Audi Urban Future Award in spatial terms. It gives a living impression of how networking might appear in the city of the future and of how new opportunities for intelligent use of urban space might arise.”
The installation at Design Miami/ is visually reminiscent of a short section of road, but it can do much more: it consists of a digitally programmable LED surface that senses movements, coordinates the various participants in traffic and adapts to their needs. 3D cameras record all movements and feed them into the LED surface. This allows the visitor to experience the communication between cars, pedestrians and the street at the show booth.
At the heart of the “Urban Future” installation is the Audi A2 concept. BIG had a good reason for incorporating the showcar in his work – the car is able to communicate with its environment – which for Ingels, is a prerequisite for a networked, mobile future. On the exterior of the Audi A2 concept, the designers have integrated a dynamic lighting unit that surrounds the car like a band. When the driver brakes, a red light pulse runs along the car’s flank, which warns other participants in traffic. The electrically powered concept car communicates and offers a glimpse of mobility in megacities of the future. It celebrated its world premiere at this year’s Frankfurt International Motor Show, and can now be seen in the United States for the first time.
Bjarke Ingels is a rising star in the international architectural scene. Much of his work revolves around the complex interrelationships of urban life. His most spectacular design objects to date are the residential apartment buildings in Ørestad on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Together with other architects of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Ingels implemented his vision of urban density in these apartment buildings with their futuristic impression. He has already received renowned architectural prizes, including the Golden Lion and Wall Street Journal’s Architectural Innovator of the Year 2011 Award. Ingels was recently a visiting professor at Harvard University. In spring 2012 Bjarke will be a visiting professor at the Yale University School of Architecture.
Audi has been a sponsor and exhibitor at the Design Miami/ fair since 2006. In this capacity, the brand has experimented with themes such as mobility, technology, material and design since the partnership’s inception, expressing its ideas on the future design and encouraging creative dialogue.
You will find more information on the Audi Urban Future Initiative at: www.audi-urban-future-initiative.com.