Car design can either leaves you feeling completely cold, or something certainly intriguing. It may or may not matter to you, but the task undertaken to get your current car from a simple idea on paper to your driveway is a long and sometimes thankless one, because how difficult is it really to get an artist’s impression onto the road?
Well, very, as it turns out — and for designers to do their best work they need the best environment. So, what German giant Audi needed to do was demolish the design centre it had used since the 1970s and replace it with a brand-new block.
Why do it? As explained to the group of journalists who were the first allowed into the private building – Audi needed more space to accommodate its constantly growing range of vehicles.
Although 13 base models may not sound like a lot for the might of such a manufacturer, it must be remembered that S and RS versions also made, you can see why the designers needed a little more wiggle room.
The new T3 building at Audi’s Ingolstadt site brings the company’s new design language to the fore by offering a professional and simple exterior that will stand the test of time, as the brand’s design ethos becomes more finessed. The glass exterior has two layers to it so that light can get in, but curious eyes don’t see the secrets inside – are there are quite a few these.
Even when on the tour, security guards were posed by certain doors around the building just so secrets weren’t revealed too soon.
When entering the building, Audi had placed the Prologue and Prologue Avant concept models at the entrance, to give us an idea of what the A7 would look like when it was revealed later that day. The Prologue models will also be inspiration for the upcoming A6 saloon
With the central staircases crisscrossing the main atrium up to the top floor – which also had a glass roof to allow even more light in – the building has quite a simplified feel with bare concrete walls, light cladding and dark floors with wood detailing, complementing the large glass windows.
When taken further up into the beating heart of the new block, we saw the brand demonstrate its new super-computer-driven rendering system, which allows the designers to take their simplified and computer-assisted drawings, and turn them into fully fledged vehicles on a large screen so they can see what they need to change with the design. It is even able to place a vehicle in a certain place on the planet on any day and time of the year to see what it looks like – impressive still.
You may be thinking then that the whole design process would be undertaken on computers and without the need for a physical starting point. Thankfully though, Audi still does all the original doodles and sketches on paper before scanning them into the computer to then edit and render from there, so the art of car design is car from over.
As we worked our way up, the floors opened up to allow even more space for the designers to work, and this where we got the first glimpse of the new A7. All in clay, the basic full-size design had been milled on one of the platforms and it allowed designers to further refine the design in the flesh, while also testing colours and designs on the contours and panels with foil.
Rigs for interior design and light setup were also dotted around the floor space, with interior design drawings and sketches also on walls and on the desks. The designers had access to premium materials and finishes so they could adequately offer the attitude they wanted in their vehicles – may that be luxury or sporty.
From all this we could piece together what the new A7 would look like before it was revealed that evening, but it was a great insight into how the designers work as this building will now get few visitors from outside the organisation.
From now on, all Audis will come from within those glass walls and it was special to be one of the few to see where they will all come from before it goes into shutdown.