Mustang Mach-E shaped by midcentury modern Detroit architecture, Eames


The architectural design that shaped Motor City also played a key role in the creation of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, according to the designer.

“I didn’t realize it until I moved to Detroit. There’s so much mid-century modern design. This is the epicenter,” said Josh Greiner, an industrial designer who submitted the Mach-E interior theme selected by Ford .

“Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll went to Cranbrook together and then changed the world with their modern architecture,” he said.

The legacy of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills includes, among its famous guest artists, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto – global visionaries for their bare and elegant furniture and home design from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.

However, the depth of the talent goes even deeper and continues to influence the Mach-E.

Josh Greiner created this Ford Mustang Mach-E design in 2016 that includes a wireless cell phone charging station in the console.  He said architects influenced his vision.

Architect Eliel Saarinen, who designed the Cranbrook campus after his international career in Finland, watched his son grow up teaching in Cranbrook. Eero Saarinen later eclipsed his father and designed the General Motors Tech Center, JFK Airport and St. Louis Gateway Arch, as well as spectacular furniture.

Knoll, whose modern furniture company is now thriving, was friends with Harry Bertoia, a Cranbrook student and faculty member known for his popular wire-based furniture designs. She introduced Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s elegant modern furniture to the American market.

The General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan was an important accomplishment by architect Eero Saarinen

Her work is shown in art museums, including the Eames Lounge Chair, the Seranin Womb Chair and the Tulip Chair, as well as the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs.

The womb chair by designer Eero Saarinen was introduced in 1949.  A Ford designer said the look and texture affect the design of the soundbar on the Mustang Mach-E's dashboard.

Vintage homes are still highly valued, and mid-century modern furniture has resurfaced – sofas, chairs, lamps, tables.

Now comes the Mach-E.

From chairs to cars

The SUV introduces the all-electric portfolio of the 117-year-old company.

“Many of us are inspired by classic design. We are trying to create more timeless design and less trend design,” said Greiner. “Trendy design is exciting right now, but it doesn’t age very well.”

This chair designed by Harry Bertoia is a classic example of the wire mesh furniture that he makes.

Famous vehicles like the Mustang and Ford Bronco have to stand the test of time and still be valued. He marveled at the houses all over Detroit, especially the Mies van der Rohe collection in Lafayette Park.

“It looks like a big, beautiful modern glass building,” said Greiner, who had moved from Providence, Rhode Island. “It’s 50 years old and looks brand new. I have a lot of friends who live in Lafayette Park and I’m amazed at how clean and simple and beautiful it is. This is rooted in the younger generation of interior designers who like cleanliness and.” Want modernity and less excitement. “

The Mies van der Rohe residential neighborhood in Lafayette Park near downtown Detroit.  It has 186 one- and two-story cooperative houses and nearby complexes that were built between 1958 and 1965.

Greiner bought a loft in the old Columbia Motors car factory downtown.

Now, Wright homes are known for their low roofs, overhanging eaves, and open floor plans. A sense of openness is a key element in feeling Mach-E.

In the vehicle

A major Mach-E priority is a commitment to clean and simple modern piping, Greiner said. “I took inspiration from the houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, his prairie-style movement where all of his roofs were cantilevered. And they always resisted gravity – I felt super light and almost impossible. I tried like this many to involve. ” floating elements in the interior as possible so that it feels light and airy. “

Designer Josh Greiner created this early sketch of the Mustang Mach-E for Ford Motor Company in 2016, showing the layered architecture in the vehicle and the dashboard with the soundbar.

Greiner, a trained industrial designer from the Cleveland Institute of Art, said the armrest on the Mach-E’s console was completely floating.

“There is a feeling of space and lightness,” he said. “The top of the dash is the same method of splitting the dash in half – the top half appears to be floating.”

Josh Greiner, who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art with a degree in industrial design, played a key role in the interior design of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E.  Famous architects played a key role in the interior feel of the all-electric SUV.

The touchscreen in the middle of the SUV also feels like it is floating, said Greiner and pointed to the qualities of Mies van der Rohe.

“His design with curtain walls and glass walls let in light rather than structural support,” explained Greiner. “Everything floats.”

Designer Josh Greiner drew floating elements of the Mustang Mach-E interior in this early sketch from 2017.  His direction for the project was heavily influenced by famous Detroit architects.  This shows a neat and easy approach.

Pointing out the iconic Womb Chair, designed by Saarinen in 1948, he said he used “simple, honest material” to dictate the design and texture of the fabric soundbar on the Mach-E dashboard.

Back to the Future

In the 1960s and 1970s, car designers were often inspired by architects, said Maeva Ribas, manager of design research and strategy at The Carlab, a Southern California-based automotive product planning advisory group.

She recently described a meeting with a high-ranking global car designer who is responsible for European projects and who spoke about looking for classic architects again.

“It’s very minimal,” said Ribas. “We’re just seeing this trend return.”

This is a Mies van der Rohe townhouse in Lafayette Park, Detroit.

American automobiles have tended to mirror pop culture throughout history.

“In the jet age, the post-war 1950s boom, you had this very futuristic design,” said Jonathan Klinger, vice president of Hagerty in Traverse City, the world’s largest insurer of collector’s vehicles. “The classic example of Detroit would be the 1959 Cadillac. The taillights were similar to the jet’s afterburners. Many of the interiors had a very airplane-like, jet-inspired feel to it.”

Later, the fabrics and bright colors reflected the era – three-tone seat fabrics, atomic gold stars, and vinyl, he said.

This is the entrance to the Mies van der Rohe summer house at 1331 Joliet Place in Lafayette Park in Detroit.

Now there is a new playbook with a fully electric vehicle.

“Developing an all-electric car from scratch requires incredible freedom as the vehicle has neither an engine nor a transmission, which creates challenges like that little hump on the floor in the back seat that the exhaust pipes or driveshaft run on” said Klinger.

This early prototype of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E is pictured at Detroit's Eastern Market in February.

Powertrain elements typically require an internal combustion engine up front, but anything that is omitted when a car uses electricity instead of gasoline.

Designer Josh Greiner sketched such images on his board to illustrate Ford Motor Co.'s inspirations for the upcoming 2021 Mustang Mach-E.  Greiner attributes the influence on his vision of lines and space to the mid-century modern architect Eero Saarinen.

Joel Stone, chief curator of the Detroit Historical Society, said the city has been a center for architectural design for a century, though few recognize the breadth of influence.

“Over time, classicism was reflected in the Cadillac, Packard and Lincoln. Then the cars became leaner and more imaginative,” said Stone. “Some of the prototypes are absolute spaceships and not very practical, but from these … designers learned how to bend metal and figure out how to handle windshields and mold windshields and plastics.”

This 2021 Mustang Mach-E sketch was drawn in 2018 by Josh Greiner, a designer at Ford Motor Co.  The company's first fully electric SUV is due to be delivered soon.

Andrew Blauvelt, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum, said the academy was known as the place where the mid-century modern movement in America was born. It’s often associated with optimism after World War II, the Mad Men era, and the end of fascism. But it started at Cranbrook Studios in the 1930s.

“People like the Eameses, Saarinen, Bertoia, Knoll worked on curves and softer shapes and more humanistic design,” said Blauvelt. “There’s geometric abstraction – with perfect triangles, circles, and rectangles from places like the German Bauhaus – and then there’s organic modern design that’s more fluid. It’s another philosophy that comes from Scandinavia, where nature is the source of inspiration Cranbrook is transplanting that seed in America. “

The classic Eames lounge chair and ottoman continue to be popular after their release in 1956.  The design is shown in museums.  Charles and Ray Eames taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art together with the world-famous architect Eero Saarinen.

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Dusty Kennedy