Volvo Cars has partnered with the world-renowned Swedish glassworks Orrefors to start the company's subsequent concept vehicle, which will be the first next-generation Volvo S60. The joint project, which features a floating center stack of handcrafted Orrefors crystals, will be initially displayed at the Detroit International Motor Show very early next year.
The graceful, crystal-clear center stack takes a gentle shape which begins from the instrument panel section reaching back to the rear seat backrest. Steve Mattin, Volvo Cars design director, describes the crystal this way, "It almost looks like a waterfall from the instrument panel, flowing through the center of the car." The crystal center-panel looks like it's hovering over the console's functions and controls.
It lies gently on rubber cushions and with the aid of hidden light sources the glimmering glow of the crystal can be custom adjusted to coincide with the mood of the driver. Steve Mattin says, "If you want to explore the full scope of Scandinavian design, Sweden's glassworks are a natural source of inspiration.
Large glass areas are very much part of modern Swedish architecture, creating the special, light transparency." He further adds that "In a concept car, you are able to release your imagination and creativity. Our iconic, super-thin center stack was the perfect subject. We reinterpreted it and gave it a refined new form. Then it was up to Orrefors to use their superb skill to transform our exciting vision into reality."
Facing the challenge head on, the experts at Orrefors created one of the most unusual and the most demanding masterpieces in the company's 110-year long history. Manufacturing the stack was quite a difficult challenge, even for the highly-trained and experienced experts of the company. The conventional method of doing this is to make the molds for the crystal by manually chiseling thick planks of alder wood.
After the cast is made, the glass is painstakingly polished to create its ultimate, crystal-clear brilliance. Orrefors design manager Gunilla Arvidsson explains, "The undulating, slightly twisted shape and the precise dimensional requirements were two exciting challenges we had to face. Crystal is a living material, shaped by living people. We are not used to working with tolerances of tenths of a millimeter.
What is more, we're talking here about an exceptionally large piece of glass. To come up to the applicable strength values, the final product is composed of three parts fixed together at the concept car workshops of Volvo Cars. Steve Mattin says in this regard, "The full-size crystal piece in the concept car will not be a production feature. However, it does open up opportunities to use crystal on a smaller scale in the future.
We'll have to see how our customers respond. Even though the crystal stack represents unhindered artistic creativity, the functions integrated with it have been well thought out in its minutest detail. Located beside the driver's seat, the crystal panel slices through the instrument board and its upper part forms a navigation display at the exact height of the instrument gauges.
At the base are four emblematic revolving controls that project from stylish matt-polished depressions in the glass panel. Midway is a detachable remote control. The gear shifter has an innovative shape. Automatic mode is achieved through a horizontal position of the gear selector. For manual gear changes, the handle can be flicked into a vertical position.
Added to the gear select lever are a starter button and a hand brake. The elegant crystal center console runs all the way to the backrest of the rear seat, and two drink holders are located between the front seats that slide stylishly forward when needed.
Exploring the glassworks in the innermost forests of southern Sweden has been an exciting and inspiring experience. "The clean lines of the Orrefors products have been a true source of inspiration for many years. This was perfect timing for using crystal as a material in a concept car too," says Steve Mattin. The introduction of the Orrefors glassworks as a supplier to the car world has also served as a new creative encouragement for them.