Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BatTram and industrial design

Now this is a story to make your day.  Most visitors to Russia soon notice that the only things that are actually beautiful were built before 1917 and most of this was done by imported artisans (like the spectacular areas of St. Petersburg.)  Much of the rest—especially that built immediately after the Great Patriotic War—is just gruesomely ugly.  Of course, much of this is fairly easy to explain.  Huge areas of USSR were destroyed by the Germans and it had to be rebuilt by grieving widows because millions of young men had perished in the conflict.  Not surprisingly, sound industrial design was not a major priority during the reconstruction.  This is really quite unfortunate.  This is actually an important economic issue because people and societies tend to care for beautiful things.  Maintain enough things carefully and the culture improves dramatically.  A maintenance culture tends to promote other virtues.

But fear not.  It looks like Russian industrial design just might be flickering to life.  The example in question is a new tram and it is quite stunning.  The designer is a young man named Alexei Maslov who looks barely old enough to shave.  Even better, this tram is a project of a tank company named Uralvagonzavod.

Swords into plowshares. A beautiful thing for everyday usage.  What's not to like?  Well a few things, actually.  Those beautiful linoleum floors probably won't look so nice after a few days being trampled with muddy boots, those wood and aluminum handrails will soil and scratch, and that lovely cream-colored felt upholstery will not stand up to drunken, heaving revelers.  But these are easily fixed details—otherwise this is a magnificent effort.  (More photos here)

BatTram, anyone? 'Badass' new Russian streetcar revealed

RT July 10, 2014

Russian cities that want to develop their public transit systems will soon have a stellar option to buy. A sleek new black streetcar looks like something Darth Vader would pilot in Star Wars and promises new levels of comfort and safety to commuters.

The R1, or Russia One, was developed by a subsidiary of Uralvagonzavod, a company best known for producing advanced Russian tanks. The prototype streetcar, or tram, is to be revealed to the public on Wednesday at the Innoprom-2014 tech expo, but the producer offered a sneak peak to Russian bloggers one day ahead.

Unlike many foreign tram producers, the Russians favored angles and facets over curves. The R1 looks somewhat block-like, closer to Battlestar Gallactica than the Starship Enterprise. But thanks to black composite glass panels, red elongated lights and silver lines, the tram resembles a huge modern smartphone. Some of the designers dubbed it “an iPhone on rails.”

The interior is meant to be both comfortable and durable. The designers sacrificed the number of seats, leaving only 28 per car, for making those seats cozy and giving more space to standing passengers.

Several features will help using R1 in some of the harsher climatic regions of Russia. Grooved aluminum stepping boards will have built-in electric heaters utilizing energy recuperated during breaking to prevent icing in wintertime. The outer glass panels have special fitting for swift replacement. Electric batteries allow a tram cut from power lines to travel a further 50km autonomously.

Blogger Ivan Solomin, who is a tram driver himself and was among those invited to test the prototype, has doubts about rear-view cameras that substitute side mirrors at R1. He believes they may not give an adequate rear view to the driver, lacking proper depth perception. But he also praised the driver cabin windows for giving a good direct view – about 10 to 15 percent better than tram models currently used in Russia, he assessed.

The producer estimates that the series version of the tram will cost around 1 million euro and will have few changes compared to the prototype on display. A pilot project to introduce R1 to Russian streets will be launched in Ekaterinburg, Urals Region. The tram is promised to roll out en mass by 2017, when Russia is to host FIFA World Cup. more
This is the tram's designer, Alexei Maslov.

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