Today, at the Shanghai Auto Show, Volvo Cars visualises a masterpiece of Scandinavian design, inspired by Chinese philosophy. Concept Universe is Volvo’s most luxurious creation ever, and the brand’s answer to the question: “What is a beautiful car?” With this sculptural and luminary design study, Volvo wants to test a possible new design direction for the brand since it was acquired by Geely.
“When we set out to create this concept, one of the first things I told the designers was not to draw cars for a week. With a pencil, one automatically draws hard lines, and that’s not what we wanted here. Instead I asked them to design sculptures. That way, we brought fluidity and a sculptural gracefulness to the Concept Universe. We reduced the number of lines, and took away all visual noise, to make it as simple and elegant as possible,” says Jonathan Disley, Strategic Design Manager Advanced, at Volvo Cars.
“Without the edges, all lines are infinite, marking distinctive inspiration from Scandinavian furniture design as well as Chinese writing. The Concept Universe is entirely built by hand and took a strenuous 8000 hours to finish.”
With Volvo’s new tie to China in mind, the design director brought a more philosophical dimension to the design, as he wished for a car “with the depth of the universe and just as welcoming as the sun rising over a calm ocean.” This extraordinary brief brought about unexpected and inspiring discussions among the designers, and the director got what he wished for. The depth of the grill, with its layered design, luminary effects and planetary feel, resembles the universe, while an illumination bar between the tail lights reflect the colour spectra of the sun and the moon rising. Made of rubber compounds, the frosted tail lights accentuate a glowing, almost burning red light. The lights are with its silicone-like attributes also resistant to bumps and scratches.
At the same time as the Concept Universe opens the door into Volvo’s future, the design team found inspiration in Volvo’s iconic models of the past, such as the Volvo Amazon and Volvo PV 444. This is especially apparent in the concept’s smooth, rounded and soft lines. The inspirational pictures are to be found in Jonathan Disley’s design blog.
The aniline leather seats are tailored with utmost craftsmanship, with backrests made from first-class wool, usually found only in the most exclusive suits. Open the pockets and notice the extraordinary stitchery and the lining fabric in a strong accent colour, showcasing Volvo’s attention to detail. The centre stack and panels are made in walnut with fine details in hand-painted china, giving a nod to Volvo’s new owner and the age-old trade tradition between Sweden and China.
There is a growing appreciation for the ingenious blend of design and technology among luxury car buyers, and Concept Universe offers a fascinating contrast between traditional craftsmanship and highly advanced features. The driver’s in-command environment has intuitive controls and a touch-screen that approaches the hand when the driver reaches towards it. There is also a full-colour 3D head-up display, originally developed for military aviation, presenting the speedometer, navigation system and other important information directly on the windshield, without requiring the driver to look away from his or her viewpoint.