“Wood is not for cars,” lamented automobile enthusiast Jerry Seinfeld, recently. “It makes no sense.” But therein lies the beauty of Toyota’s new concept car Setsuna, whose exterior is made from 86 handmade wooden panels. Although it offers basic vehicular performance like driving, turning and stopping, the Setsuna, named after the Japanese Buddhist word for “moment or “instant,” is not supposed to make sense. It’s supposed to make us rethink our relationship with our car as one that is something more than just an industrial product loaded with the latest technology.
Setsuna (刹那) comes from the Buddhist concept of time and is intended to remind us to live each moment to its fullest potential. Toyota’s concept car, which will debut at the 2016 Milan Design Week (April 12 – 17) will have an aluminum meter on the dashboard that counts time in hours, days and years up to 100 years. It’s a Zen-like exercise that ties value to time and memories, rather than distance traveled.
Plenty of other thoughtful details went into the car, such as the type of wood for each application. For the exterior: Japanese cedar for its vividness and refinement. For the frame: Japanese birch for its strong rigidity. For the seats: the smooth castor aralia, the same material that woodmaker Takahashi Kogei uses in their tableware.
And Japanese interlocking techniques like okuriari (送り蟻) and kusabi (楔) were used so that not a single nail or screw was needed to hold the car together. You can read more about the car here, or see it person from April 12 -17, 2016 at Via Tortona 31, Milan.
This article is part of a series on our coverage of Japanese design at the 2016 Milan Design Week. You can see all our picks here.