By Design

BMW Gina Light Visionary Model – By Design

Sure, it looks familiar. It should; this brilliant design exercise was done seven years ago, and traces of its lines and vestiges of its surfaces have turned up on numerous BMW concept and production models since. lines that were superb on the 2006 Mille Miglia concept car or that seemed not to make any sense in the grotesque (but very important) X Coupé were established by this concept, which BMW has finally made public.

I have no idea whether a flexible fabric surface will ever appear on the lower body exterior of a production car, although literally millions of convertibles have been perfectly satisfactory with cloth roofs, so there’s no logical reason why not. Yes, hoodlums with knives could do a lot of harm, but most convertibles manage to go to the junkyard with their original tops in place, if tattered. And I suspect this new space-age membrane is made of stuff that’s difficult to damage. anyone who has ever tried to cut kevlar cloth to shape knows that some modern fibers are tough almost beyond belief.

What I like most about the Gina is its ability to morph into different shapes as required. When the car’s speed changes, the rear spoiler lip can raise or lower, without ugly flaps like those on various Porsches. Airplanes today have collections of articulated control surfaces, spoilers, ailerons, slats, and flaps, but NASA research into smoothly morphing forms has been going on for a long time and seems ripe for exploitation. so why not have that on cars? the “eyelids” on the Gina are simply wonderful; they blink open when the light source is activated and close when lamps aren’t needed. Like our own eyelids.

The fluidity of lines and surfaces, both on the body and in the interior, is quite beautiful, and it makes one regret that designers are so often obliged only to hint at such natural shapes in stamped steel and never achieve the organic quality of the Gina’s lines and shapes. BMW Group design chief Chris Bangle and BMW Automobiles design director Adrian van Hooydonk have been severely criticized in recent years for some of their work, but they’ve also been justly praised. i see the staccato performance of the design team as a good sign, proof that they are trying things, not just resting on BMW’S reputation.

This latest unveiling, old as it may be in terms of when it was executed, strikes me as confirmation that BMW design is on the right track for the future. I heartily disliked the messy, complex, and rather disjointed M1 Homage when it was presented at the Villa d’Este last spring, but many of our readers loved it. That difference of opinion is both healthy and desirable, and one can only hope that BMW will continue to excite strong reactions to each and every new product. Personally, I wish the Gina were actually a product, not just a concept.

1 This inverse curve is purely the product of tensions within the membrane, controlled by the form-defining hard ribs beneath the skin.

2 It’s easy to see how the fabric is constrained by a “bone” and flows past it with elegance.

3 The divided windshield gives the Gina a touch of classicism, and because the center pillar thickness is less than a driver’s interpupillary distance, there is no reduction of visibility.

4 It is easy to sense the strains on the fabric that create this concave surface between convex ribs around the wheels and the long, elegant “fender” line extending from door to grille corner.

5 This curve is awkward and unnatural, no matter if it’s shown here, on the X5, or on the Z4. it should have been created with a wooden ship’s spline, not drawn with a clumsy kink.

6 Much of the lower backside is messy, but it is nicely shadowed and unobtrusive. The machinedaluminum exhaust outlets are particularly nice.

7 The parlor trick that makes everything clear is the ability to raise and lower the arched rib defining the deck lid’s flow-tripping spoiler. as it falls, the area with the badge becomes concave, as on the Z9 concept.

A The fluidity of the interior derives from the tension in the unconstrained fabric areas between points of anchorage.

B The harmony of interior and exterior curves is notably better than on 99 percent of car designs.

C These are the coolest of cool details. The Gina’s skin wrinkles when things bend, fold, or blink. So does yours. And mine, and Angelina Jolie’s. Isn’t that nice?