In­clud­ing a bit of Luk in new brand de­sign

IN­TER­VIEW/ Ler­ato Matebese de­sign­ers, Calvin Luk spoke to one of BMW’s ex­te­rior

Business Day - Motor News - - FOCUS ON FAW TRUCKS -

Car de­sign­ers, for the most part are flam­boy­ant in their dress sense, usu­ally decked in tai­lored suits at most oc­ca­sions, par­tic­u­larly when in­ter­act­ing with mem­bers of the mo­tor­ing me­dia.

A great deal of them are mostly mid­dle aged, at least the one’s I have in­ter­acted with, so it was rather re­fresh­ing to see the con­trast when I sat down with Calvin Luk, one of BMW’s ve­hi­cle ex­te­rior de­sign­ers.

Meet­ing the 30-year-old Aus­tralian born, Hong Kong de­scen­dant, he looks rather non­de­script in his denim jeans and BMW wind­breaker jacket and you would be hard-pressed to spot that he is the man re­spon­si­ble for the ex­te­rior de­sign of the lat­est BMW X3.

As we set­tle at the table I ask Luk to briefly take me through his de­sign jour­ney that led him to the Bavar­ian car maker’s de­sign stu­dios.

He tells me his car de­sign knack was in­spired by his par­ent’s E36 3 Se­ries of the 90s and af­ter high school he stud­ied at the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Sydney be­fore en­rolling at the Art Cen­tre Col­lege of De­sign in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia where he ma­jored in Trans­porta­tion De­sign. Then in 2008, he started work at the Ger­man com­pany’s head­quar­ters as an in­tern de­signer and learnt a great deal about ex­te­rior de­sign, which lead to his first full ex­te­rior de­sign pro­ject, the cur­rent X1.

How­ever, Luk was quick to men­tion that the X3 was ar­guably one of his most en­thu­si­as­tic projects yet as he wanted to bring an el­e­ment of sporti­ness to the model.

“I had this cool idea of us­ing light and fewer sur­face lines to give the X3 a more dy­namic and mus­cu­lar look. For in­stance, if you look at the front and rear fend­ers with their flared de­sign and the wheel arches with their slightly squared de­sign, it gives it a for­ward lean­ing charge.”


He says that he has moved the cab rear­wards, which ac­cen­tu­ates the long bon­net of the ve­hi­cle and this was made pos­si­ble by stretch­ing the wheel­base by 55mm com­pared with its pre­de­ces­sor.

“We also de­creased the glass house, mak­ing it nar­rower, while the rear viewed head-on gives the im­pres­sion of a squatter ve­hi­cle rel­a­tive to the ground,” he says.

He says that there have been nu­mer­ous de­sign sketches of the new X3 go­ing back and forth be­tween the de­sign team and mem­bers of the board as each and ev­ery sketch is scru­ti­nised and only the best cho­sen.

“The sketch­ing phase is the most cre­ative bit of the de­sign stage and here you can truly use a great deal of flair, but once the best sketch has been cho­sen, which in it­self can take up to 18 months alone, de­sign and func­tion­al­ity need to co-ex­ist. This means ev­ery edge of the ve­hi­cle can be re­done a cou­ple of times in or­der to achieve the best drag co-ef­fi­cient.”

Aside from the X1 and X3, Luk was also very in­stru­men­tal in the facelift of the 1 Se­ries which, to be a frank, looks far bet­ter than the pre-facelift.

An­other pro­ject that he was com­mis­sioned to be part of is the new Z4 Con­cept, which was re­cently shown at the Frank­furt and Tokyo Mo­tor Shows.

“I have al­ways dreamt of de­sign­ing a sports car such as the Z4 Con­cept and it is some­thing truly spe­cial as it in­volved bring­ing a great deal of pas­sion to this pro­ject,” he says.

I quizzed Luk on whether the pro­duc­tion Z4 would re­tain most of the con­cept’s de­sign el­e­ments, but he pointed out that show cars are usu­ally slightly more ex­ag­ger­ated and that con­cepts are not de­signed for road pur­poses, hence most of the de­sign as­pects would not par­tic­u­larly work in the real world.

He wouldn’t be drawn into telling me how toned-down the ve­hi­cle will be when it goes into pro­duc­tion, suf­fice to say that it will be a ve­hi­cle we should look for­ward to see­ing.

Work­ing un­der the tute­lage and aus­pices of Adrian van Hooy­donk, BMW’s chief de­signer, Luk says Van Hooy­donk has been very in­stru­men­tal in his ca­reer as he en­cour­aged him to go to Pasadena to study trans­porta­tion de­sign.

“Adrian has truly played a piv­otal role in my ca­reer and he was one of the de­sign­ers I have also looked up to and now hav­ing the priv­i­lege to work along­side him is still sur­real.”

Asked about Chris Ban­gle and his de­signs, some of which came un­der fire from mo­tor­ing hacks and the pub­lic alike, Luk sim­ply laughs it off be­fore say­ing that Ban­gle’s de­signs were ahead of their time and have ac­tu­ally in­flu­enced BMW de­sign of re­cent years.

Be­fore we depart and go our sep­a­rate ways, I ask Luk what in­flu­ences his de­signs. “Well be­ing Aus­tralian with Asian her­itage and hav­ing stud­ied in Cal­i­for­nia and now liv­ing and work­ing in Mu­nich is a lot to take in, so in­spi­ra­tion for me comes from very di­verse sources, but be­ing well trav­elled cer­tainly means that you are able to sat­isfy, or at the very least come close, to sat­is­fy­ing most mar­kets’ de­sign pref­er­ences.”

Left: Thirty-year old Calvin Luk is the ex­te­rior de­signer of the new X3 and other BMW mod­els. Far left: Luk work­ing on the lines of the new X3. Be­low: The fi­nal re­sult of all the de­sign ef­fort, the new BMW X3.

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