Lifestyle / Partnership

Enter the Living Vroom: How Bolt is turning spaces for cars into places for people

By Clare McInerney

96% of what you see on this photo is made from upcycled cars (including the model’s outfit). Furniture: Interesting Times Gang, Apparel: Sille Randviir. Photo: Bolt

In many cities, about half of the urban space is reserved for cars. We step inside Bolt's Living Vroom – fitted out with the first street furniture to ever be made from upcycled cars – to find out more about the brand's mission to make cities for people again

For city-dwellers commuting on foot or bicycle, day-to-day life is an obstacle course of cars. Waiting at busy intersections, hopping around stationery vehicles, and traipsing through endless car parking zones – it all comes as second nature, part and parcel of city life.

The average car takes up 13.5 square metres when parked, and with most cities facilitating two to five parking spots per car, more than 50 per cent of urban land is often dedicated purely to car infrastructure. As noted by many urban planners, this means that our cities are reduced to becoming commuting corridors for cars: built to house the cars that drive through them, rather than the people who live in them.

However, recent research shows that shared mobility solutions can reduce the need for car trips in urban areas by up to 19%. It suggests that a transition to shared mobility would open up more space to transform the cities into more people-friendly places. Almost like an outdoor living room.

And every living room needs a comfortable space to hang out, which is what prompted Bolt to tap the talents of Stockholm-based design studio Interesting Times Gang to deliver the world’s first street furniture collection made from upcycled cars, dubbed Living Vroom.

Photo: Bolt

Photo: Bolt

“Our cities are often built just to get from A to B fast, but little effort is made to make the environment nice to spend time in," says Alexander Westerlund, Head of Design at Interesting Times Gang. "The Living Vroom is doing the exact opposite: making public space more attractive, playful and creating a space to meet strangers and strike up random conversations.”

The project blends two seeming opposites: advanced technology, such as 3D printing recycled materials, and an old-timey appreciation for a unique and well-designed public space.

Sean Barrett, Head of Innovation at Interesting Times Gang

The pieces in the Living Vroom, which include a lounge chair, pouff, bench and two solar-powered lamps, are made entirely from vehicle waste materials sourced from Scandinavian scrapyards. “We sat in a car from Sweden to Norway for a very long time to visit a scrapyard,” Westerlund says. “When we arrived, a lot changed. You could actually see what kind of parts you could use and get down and dirty to discover them. We were also shocked to find so many new cars, just a few years old.”

Westerlund was accompanied by Interesting Times Gang’s Head of Innovation, Sean Barrett, who explains how their original intention to work with the textiles within the car, like the leather on the seats, proved difficult as every car’s interior is a little bit different – making it a struggle to create something as a cohesive unit. “Alexander was just walking around the scrapyard, and then he spotted the detonated airbags and got super excited like he always does,” Barrett recounts. “He ran up to the car and started cutting off the airbags. We discovered that the material is beautiful in its original state – pastel colours in soft nylon.”

Photo: Bolt

Photo: Bolt

With an unwavering focus on Bolt’s original brief – to make the city ‘feel like home’ – it was clear the soft material of the detonated airbags
would serve as the perfect upholstery for the Living Vroom’s furnishings. “And luckily,” Barrett adds, “it was the specific variant of nylon that we could 3D print, so the structural base of the furniture is also made from the same material.”

Westerlund and Barrett's experience also shed light on the difference in costs between upcycling and creating new. “The general public has a preconceived notion that if you use a waste material or a recycled material, it should be cheaper somehow. But the fact is that to take something that has changed its form and then break it down into its parts and then make it into something new has a bunch of costs, and so inevitably, it becomes much cheaper to make new stuff,” Barrett says. “So, the incentive to reuse these materials is fairly low. And a lot of what can be recycled, won’t be.”

“The project blends two seeming opposites: advanced technology, such as 3D printing recycled materials, and an old-timey appreciation for a unique and well-designed public space, Barrett says.

According to Liisa Ennuste, Creative Director at Bolt, the project perfectly represents the brand’s overall mission. “By offering a better alternative to a personal car, we can help cities reverse car-dependency, and help create more people-friendly spaces,” Ennuste comments. “The idea of, quite literally, turning the problem into a solution, felt like a great metaphor to raise awareness,” she says.

Not only is the Living Vroom entirely upcycled, but it's done so locally. “We have the seamstress just across the road here in Stockholm,” says Barrett, "and we have a friend who does the welding for the lamps really close, too." A stand-out piece in the living room is the flower-shaped lamp, which Westerlund describes as a “happy accident” to create. “When I was playing around with the round airbags, they started feeling like flower petals,” Westerlund says. "It has sort of pushed that button in me, that feeling of ‘I'm unsure about whether it's beautiful or silly’,” Barrett adds about the lamp. Best of all, the flower lamp is powered by solar panels – charging throughout the day and illuminating the Living Vroom in the evening.