The Car in the Gray Lycra Suit

BMW cloth car.jpg

Cars can be so boring: they insist on retaining the same shape day after day, have little interest in fashionable clothing, and are woefully difficult to customize without the help of a professional and several thousand dollars. Enter the lycra-skinned GINA Light Visionary, BMW‘s newest concept car, which consists of a translucent fabric skin stretched over a four-paneled, reconfigurable aluminum frame. Six years in development, the two-seated roadster that made its public debut on Tuesday is, for BMW, “a whole new approach to automotive design.” According to AutoWeek, The GINA (Geometry and Functions In “N” Adaptions) model is “a design exercise, meant to give [BMW head of design] Chris Bangle‘s team free reign to create a minimalist car with sweeping lines and a sculptural appearance.”

Because we don’t know a V8 engine from the tomatoey beverage of the same name, we turned to industrial design historian Russell Flinchum, who has taught courses on car design at the Museum of Modern Art and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts‘s D-Crit program. While pointing to the stretched skins perspective cultivated by Italian industrial designers in the 1970s, he also suggests another powerful reference. “Chris Bangle digs deep into the adolescent fantasies an entire generation of young geeks were having about Seven of Nine back during Star Trek Voyager and successfully probes their deep collective subconscious,” he tells us. “Resistance IS futile.”