Exclusive Q & A: Bentley Designer Dirk van Braeckel
Dirk van Braeckel is Director of Design and Concepts for Bentley. He is responsible for all conceptual and aesthetic aspects of Bentley products and has held that position since 1999. He offers Gotryke his thoughts on the new 2011 Bentley Continental GT, which was unveiled this September.
How do you approach the challenge of living up to the Bentley marque with the new GT?
Bentley has a rich heritage and that has always played a significant role for the creation of new designs. Understanding the brand is key to create new Bentley cars which are instantly recognizable as a Bentley but are clearly contemporary. The first GT was a revolution for the brand and unique on the road. The new GT follows in that successful path but achieves a greater presence combined with a purity of line and construction that has no equal.
What contemporary influences played into your design?
The modern aspect of sharper lines to the design. We challenged the toolmakers to achieve half the radius compared with the old car on the body panels. This achievement creates a great tension between the character lines and the generous negative and positive surfaces.
What changed with this process since the previous generation GT? Did you work on the previous generation?
I created the first GT. It was the first full project I worked on for Bentley. Back then we were a small team and worked very much in the classic design process. Hand sketches, clay models by hand etc. Now we work in a combined process using hand skills together with the digital processes we have today. I am also responsible for the final CAD surfaces of the whole car so I use this to the full advantage for the design execution with a lot of attention to detail.
What past Bentley models inspired the new GT?
The original GT has a strong link to the R Type Continental of 1952. The new GT follows that but has a far more modern execution which if one looks at the surface and detail feel has a strong link to the Embiricos Bentley of 1936. This was a unique “one off” car.
What is the makeup of the design department in Crewe?
We have about 95 people in the studio with responsibilities ranging from Engineering packaging (the cars Architecture) over the exterior and interior design, model building and final CAD surfacing. It is a young international team but primarily British. We work very closely with a minimum of paperwork and achieve great things working directly together as a team.
How does the design team work together, from exterior to interior?
We have direct interaction between all involved in a project. We work in a close-knit fashion. We are also located together with direct access to the models. People are only metres away from one another so communication is optimum.
What materials are new to the GT? How did they impact the design?
We use Super form Aluminum for the front fenders. We wanted to achieve the clean statement that the lamps are surrounded by metal and not sitting in between a metal fender and a plastic bumper skin like the original Gt. In Coach building days a craftsman would piece the metal together and finish the part in such a way that it looked as one piece. Now we can achieve this with Superforming. With pressing methods this would not be possible.
Describe the new Bentley in three aesthetic terms.
Powerful yet understated presence. Timeless. Iconic character.