Car design as architecture
The central defining quality of car design relative to other design disciplines, is that cars move. By degrees this movement is evident in almost all cars: on the axis of dynamism, car design sits closer to planes than buildings. Except the Nissan Cube.
Closely following the 2001 Nissan Chappo concept, the 2002 Cube took the emergent Japanese taste for boxes-on-wheel to extremes: it was defined by horizontal and vertical key lines and surfaces, by large radii curved window and pillar corners, by its asymmetrical rear, and by its super functionalist interior. In automotive lexicon is was very 'architectural’ (or very ‘product design’).
Cube was functionalist and not automotive, but it was not prosaic: it had a confident and approachable face, a purposefully human spirit — it was designed to be useful but also joyous in a way that designs like the Mini, Fiat 500, Citroen 2CV, and Volkswagen Beetle were long before.
But even more so that these iconic designs from the past, the joy in the Cube was not from the classical automotive idea of driving on the open road, so much as sharing a nice space with friends when parked up or in city traffic. The Cube design was uniquely closer to a small building than a plane in its wider approach to use not just in aesthetic: it was car design as architecture.