Mitchell Joachim might be best known as the purveyor of the Living Tree House but he’s got big plans for the world of transportaion and urban design as well. Along with Michael Sorkin, Terreform’s President and Founder, Joachim has conceptualized a new model for urban transportation called the “Soft Car,” a soft, safe, comfortable vehicle that responds to its surroundings, its driver, and other automobiles.
Think about it – there is no good reason that cars need to be made of such heavy, expensive and high-imact materials like steel these days. Not only is it extremely energy intensive to push a heavy steel blox around a city – but the weight and high-density materials of cars is also what makes them so dangerous in accidents. A “Soft Car” would be more eco-friendly than a steel car in many ways: not only would it be a lot safer and more energy efficient, but cars could interact with each other and move in flocks, and the whole parking conundrum could be turned on its head.
In his Postopolis presentation, Joachim described the need to wear a singular hat as an architect, urban planner, and transportation designer in order to design cars that work with our existing cities, not to design cities that are based on the car. The vehicle itself turns modern transportation on its head, making the car a shared commodity, a smart tool, and a system for sensitive urban design rather than object or personal possession.
“Let’s get smart,” he said in his presentation. And the Soft Car intends to do just that. By locating the systems and intelligence in the wheel of the car, the rest becomes simply a skin or envelope for the passenger. Additionally, the Soft Car is designed to be pedestrian-friendly through programmed speed caps and other technologies. The Soft Car could even negotiate with parking meters, offering, say, $5 for a highly-coveted spot, or free parking in low-demand areas. And when you’re done using your Soft Car, just return it to its storage location- think of it as car sharing to the 10th degree.
Joachim showed several different design concepts for the Soft Car – this one borrowed from the high-tech, high-strength plastic design of running shoes.
The thing we love about Terreform’s approach to the automobile issue is that instead of condemning traffic, their design for the Soft Car actually thrives off of it. When the cars move in “flocks” or “herds,” they are more connected to each other and can share information.
The Soft Car, in essence, simply makes cities more networked- creating connections between cars, between cars and architecture, between cars and people. And by giving our cars a bit more intelligence, we allow our transportation habits to be more responsive to changing conditions and the needs of drivers.
Terreform ONE -Open Network Ecology-is a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities. Through our creative projects and outreach efforts, we hope to illuminate the environmental possibilities of New York City and inspire solutions in areas like it around the world.
Terreform ONE is a unique laboratory for scientists, artists, architects, students, and individuals of all backgrounds to explore and advance the larger framework of green design. The group develops innovative solutions and technologies for local sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, buildings, waste treatment, food, water, and media spaces.
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