Sustainability has been a strong and important movement for several years already. But today we have seen the push for more eco-conscious manufacturing in design and manufacturing. The automotive industry is one area that sustainability is being focused on and the MINI STRIP is a prime example of this important next step.
The MINI STRIP is a custom-made one-off model that shines the spotlight on the issue of sustainability in automotive design and manufacturing. Co-created by Paul Smith and MINI, the model is built on the overarching theme of ‘Simplicity, Transparency, Sustainability’.
As the name suggests, the process began by completely stripping down the MINI Electric and reducing it to its structural essence. Only then were the elements that the designer viewed as absolutely necessary defined and implemented – with sustainability taking a front seat.
Rethinking The Iconic MINI
In their approach to making the MINI STRIP both the brand and Paul Smith looked at going back to basics by stripping down the car. In a bid to create the perfect imperfection, the body itself was left in its unfinished state.
Grinding marks from the factory have been consciously left intact on the galvanised steel panels to clearly identify the car as a functional object. With no coloured paint applied, MINI just relied on a thin film of transparent paint to protect against corrosion.
Additionally, parts of the MINI black band were 3D-printed from recycled plastic. Their basic material qualities have been left exposed – like the metal panels. The blanked-off radiator grille of the MINI STRIP and its wheel covers help to reduce drag, thereby increasing its theoretical range.
Both the grille trim and aerodynamic covers on the wheels are made from recycled Perspex, saving both weight and resources. Recycled Perspex was also used for the large panoramic roof allowing an unobstructed view of the bare structure inside.
Opening the doors reveals the signature Paul Smith stripes in a vivid composition of five colours. The charging flap adds a splash of neon green when opened, while the engraved drawing of an electric plug on the flap is Paul Smith’s own work. Holding true to its motto, the cabin also features some radical stripping-back.
All trim parts have been purposefully omitted (with the exception of the dashboard, topper pad and parcel shelf), turning the bodyshell into the dominant visual feature of the cabin. It has been coloured blue at the explicit request of Paul Smith, producing a particularly eye-catching effect. The exposed, basic material and intense blue tone give the interior an aesthetic appeal all of its own; it is bare yet feels “dressed” at the same time.
Instead of the usual multi-part design, the dashboard consists of one large, semi-transparent section with a smoked-glass finish. Taking its cue from MINI design’s traditional use of circular elements, the geometry has been simplified with a graphical interpretation.
There is no classic centre instrument, leaving the driver’s smartphone to take centre stage instead. It is placed where the centre display would normally be, connects automatically to the car and becomes the media control centre. The only physical controls in the interior are located lower in the centre stack.
Alongside the minimalist design inside the MINI STRIP, the use of recycled, environment-friendly materials also underpins the car’s sustainability credentials. The interior is free of both leather and chrome, with the seats upholstered in a knitted fabric.
The completely mono-material design for the seat coverings means they are fully recyclable – including the piping – allowing material circularity to be maintained. The floor mats are made from recycled rubber with their terrazzo-like pattern a by-product of the recycling and manufacturing process, positively showcasing the multi-coloured constituent elements enjoying a second life as part of this material.
The dashboard topper pad, door shoulders and parcel shelf are made from recycled cork which doesn’t contain synthetic binding agents – ensuring it’s fully recyclable. Another positive side effect of knitted fabric and cork is that they are both open-pore materials that enhance interior acoustics.
Minimalist And Functional
The steering wheel, which is also a focal point of the interior, has been reduced to the most essential functions. Its rim has been wrapped in handlebar tape with three aluminium spokes connecting to the steering wheel’s impact absorber. The mesh covering here affords a view of the airbag behind it.
Similarly, the door panels of the MINI STRIP are made from the same mesh material, enabling the door structure to be clearly seen behind the panels. The transparency of the knitted mesh changes according to the angle of view, adding a further dimension to the interior’s appearance.
The pull handles in the door shoulders are made from wound climbing rope. Together with the matching seat belts it helps liven up the interior with their bright orange finish. Like the pull handles, the door openers in milled aluminium are housed in the cork door shoulders and provide a high-class finishing touch for the door area.
As the eye wanders further up the door, it arrives at the exposed airbag unit in the roof pillar. This has the same effect as the visible cable routing in the interior – deliberately drawing attention to functions that are normally concealed during manufacture.