What did it mean to you when the DBS Superleggera won The Sunday Times’ Best Designed Car of the Year?
As a designer you put a lot of your heart and soul into something and when that gets recognised there’s an immense feeling of pride and honour. It makes the days of blood, sweat and tears all worthwhile. I have an amazing team and for them to get recognised in that way, there is no better feeling.
Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
What challenges did the DBX pose to you as a designer?
Design at its fundamental core is to solve problems using processes, material science or aesthetics to make a better world, and there are lots of challenges when you’re producing a hypercar that’s got 900 Newton metres of torque and 750 brake horsepower – but the real challenge tends to be making sure you can create beauty out of function. Obviously with those kinds of figures there’s a high need for aerodynamics and functionality, and combining that with beauty is always the challenge, but it’s the challenge that I get out of bed for every day.
Aston Martin DBX Concept, 2015
What’s Aston Martin’s long-term vision for Lagonda?
Lagonda is the world’s first full battery electric luxury company, so the vision is to set out a language that represents electrification and really takes advantage of the fact that you’re not having to package an internal combustion engine, an exhaust system and a fuel tank. We can really push the boundaries of the vehicle’s proportion and shape and give all that space back to the occupant. The vision is to really show the change in luxury and combine luxury and technology, which hasn’t been done to this point.
How far do you expect the driverless car story to progress?
Driverless cars are inevitable as the technology becomes safer and more relevant. At the end of the day, everything becomes automized – typewriters became automized, washing clothes became automized – so it will be the same. It makes a difference to a mass manufacturer, but for Aston Martin and Lagonda, people will still want to drive their cars for as long as possible.
Aston Martin One-77
Who are the world’s greatest designers?
I always take my hat off to Sir Norman Foster; he’s probably one of the greatest architects that has ever existed. Ross Lovegrove is also someone whose work I really appreciate, and if I’m picking an artist I’m an absolute fan of Anthony Gauntley.
The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, designed by Sir Norman Foster
Would you like to design a building?
I would – we talk about cars in terms of architecture because you’ve got to accommodate people and, while the scale is different, there are so many synergies between the way you interact with cars and buildings. I’ve always thought about the idea of car and home being as one in many ways, so I absolutely would like to design a building one day. I’ve designed my own home in Henley-on-Thames, but I haven’t done anything commercially yet.
What inspires you?
As a designer, you have to have open eyes and an open mind and I tend to be inspired by many things. Without a doubt nature and art are the most relevant, but also music – I’m a firm believer in the mathematical equation that is beauty and Fibonacci’s Golden Ratio, and music has the same mathematical flow and reasoning. On a daily basis, nature provides a solution and a wow, whether it’s seeing the sunrise, enjoying the sound of something or seeing something that nature’s created.
What makes Hackett a natural partner for Aston Martin?
We’ve been working with Hackett for 15 years and in many ways we’ve grown together. The core of the two brands is great British craftsmanship and every time I have a meeting with Jeremy [Hackett, the label’s founder], we always talk about the things that make the companies work together well. We have a shared appreciation of the finest detailing, handmade craftsmanship and the celebration of Britishness.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you and Aston Martin?
Personally, I’m off to the Australian Grand Prix because it’s the start of the season and that’s very important for the Valkyrie programme; I’m then out to Shanghai for the Shanghai Motor Show to present some of the concepts that we showed in Geneva (where we just had one of our best shows) and to do a lecture at Tongji University, where I’m a professor. We’ll then be showing a lot more of the products up until the end of the year, when we will launch DBX, our first ever SUV.
Car: Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, believe it or not.
City: Outside of London, I’d have to say Tokyo. It truly is 24/7; it’s one of the liveliest cities. If you want to feel alive and electric, Tokyo does that.
Hotel: I really like what the Waldorf Astoria has done in LA; I’ve stayed there three times since it opened in 2017.
Restaurant: Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. The great thing about it is the surprise; 99.9% of the produce used is grown within their garden or sourced locally, so you turn up and eat what’s in season.
Building: There are many historical buildings that I love but the one that changed the perception of what London is now is The Gherkin. I think the skyline has changed and improved since then.
Holiday destination: It’s ruined now, but I would have said Tulum in Mexico. I went there seven years ago and it was just an idyllic place. I haven’t been back because I’m hearing that more and more people are discovering it, but when I went it was an incredible experience.