Prepare for takeoff
Marc Newson's imagination soars with a jet prototype for the Fondation Cartier Pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 3/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
If Marc Newson's jet prototype seems like the ultimate boyhood dream come true—aeronautics and science fiction are his long-standing passions—that's still only part of the story. Commissioned by the Fondation Cartier Pour l'Art Contemporain in Paris, this civilian-transport concept is certified aerodynamically viable. It can't actually fly any more than Detroit's concept cars can drive. However it could, says the Australian designer, with "five or six more years and $50 million to $100 million dollars." It's also more strikingly beautiful than mere flight would require.
In profile, the single-engine two-seater looks rather like Boeing's proposed Joint Strike Fighter X32 for the U.S. military. From above, the plane resembles a manta ray. And head-on, with the open-mouth air intake gaping below the acrylic cockpit canopy, Newson might be headed on an intergalactic odyssey.
Biomorphic often meets aerodynamic in his work, whether it's a restaurant or a Cappellini chair. (He has also completed the interior of a Dassault Falcon 900B private jet and is currently working on an Airbus A380 for Quantas.) Regardless of medium, he tends to formulate shapes in his mind first. "I don't really chase ideas when I'm sketching. It's more a matter of documenting," he says. The two-year-long Fondation Cartier project eventually moved from drawing board to Rhino software, which allowed the design to take form in virtual 3-D space.
The final prototype combines a sleek aluminum fuselage and matte black Hexcel carbon-fiber wings and tail stabilizers, plus the same turbo engine used in the Alphajets of the French Air Force aerobatic team. The Fondation Cartier installation, on view in the ground-floor gallery until May 2, furthermore includes two short films from France's national aerospace agency. One presents computer-simulated aerodynamic studies; the other shows wind-tunnel tests conducted with a tiny scale model.
The plane's name, Kelvin 40, pays homage to both science and science fiction. Lord Kelvin was the scientist who pioneered thermodynamics, and Dr. Kris Kelvin was the central character in Andrei Tarkovsky's 1973 film, Solaris, recently remade with George Clooney. As for the 40, it refers to Newson's age.