Power Plant: Esther Haase and Eduardo Ramírez

When a star fashion photographer like Esther Haase shoots a futuristic-looking car, the result can be almost cinematic in scope. We spoke to her and Eduardo Ramírez, Head of Exterior Design at Hyundai Design Center Europe, about the IONIQ 6 – and, of course, about the future.

Houseplants were also a topic of discussion.

  • Interview & Text
    Nadine Hanfstein, Bernd Haase
  • Fotos
    Esther Haase
A car straight out of another era, the setting as surreal as in a science-fiction film. Photographer Esther Haase stands in front of the sedan, thinks, reaches for the camera. But let’s rewind the film a little: We’re at Hyundai Design Center Europe in Rüsselsheim, where Esther Haase encounters the new IONIQ 6 for the first time. Also there: Head of Exterior Design Eduardo Ramírez. Together, they brainstorm some initial ideas on how to visually capture the new member of the IONIQ family. But pretty soon, they’re in a full-blown conversation about modern mobility. Not bad either.
Ms. Haase, what was your first thought when you saw the IONIQ 6?

Esther Haase: My first thought was: It’s really fast and it’s got real power. And if a woman drove it, it would have to be Catwoman.

What do you think about electric cars in general?

Haase: Even as a child, I always wondered why we have these noisy, dirty machines everywhere. I was a big fan of The Jetsons, and everything there was wonderfully quiet and electric. They could fly, and everything was so clean and tidy.

And what was it like when you got in the IONIQ 6?

Haase: What I find so fascinating about this car is the contradiction between the exterior and the interior. From the outside, as I said, it looks incredibly fast, you expect a real sports car. But once you’re sitting inside, you have this incredible amount of space, a place to simply enjoy – or work, if you have to.

Eduardo Ramírez: That’s the special thing about electric cars – they’re not just quiet with an incredibly dynamic acceleration, they also make new concepts possible. Defining the proportions with a very long wheelbase gave us a large interior in which we created a living room atmosphere. We call it a “mindful cocoon”. At the same time, we defined this curved silhouette for an exterior that spans the entire space. And thanks to the streamlined form with the shorter overhangs and the low front and rear sections, you don’t even notice that the vehicle is actually quite tall, coming in at 1.50 meters in height.

Haase: The sofa is there. All that’s missing now are some plants.

“What I find so fascinating about this car is the contradiction between the exterior and the interior.”
Esther Haase
Ramírez: Not a problem. The larger wheelbase allows for more legroom, but it also gives us room to be creative. There are surfaces where you can put things down, just like at home, where your keys, your smartphone or your handbag all have their own place. And you could certainly keep a plant there, if you like. The glove compartment, for example, doesn’t pop open downwards the conventional way; it opens like a drawer, and the occupants can use the surface as they wish.

Haase: That’s one of the first things I discovered. Fabulous! There are a lot of really great inventions in this car. But you also have to give people an idea of what they can do with it. Allow me to make a comparison with photography. We used to have these big cameras, and when we shot a car, it was all about producing these huge posters. Today, everything is mobile and small, and we produce content for Instagram. It’s a completely different visual language. When you drive an electric car, which no longer has all these constraints due to the combustion engine, that frees up space to use. Why not invite over a few friends and have a little party in the car?

Ramírez: That’s certainly a possibility.

Haase: I could bring my tea kettle.

Ramírez: You could. Or an espresso machine. There is a power outlet.

Mr. Ramírez, the IONIQ 6 looks as it was drawn in a single stroke of the pen. Where did you get the inspiration for this car?

Ramírez: When we first started talking about the streamliner form, we were able to draw on clear references from the past for inspiration. There are several examples in automotive history that express this very clearly. The original Saab, for example. It was designed by aeronautical engineers when the aircraft manufacturer decided to build cars in the late 1940s. It is a very free interpretation of the first-ever submarine. You can see the teardrop shape or streamliner form very well and can imagine how the air glides along almost without resistance.

What other features are important to you in car design? What story do they tell?

Ramírez: We genuinely want our design to be about our clients. To design well, we need to understand their desires and ambitions. Only then can we design for them. In a way, we are telling the story of our clients.

And those are different stories? There are quite some different designs in the IONIQ family.

Ramírez: The choice of a car is an expression of one’s own personality. That’s why we treat each car differently, depending on the purpose it is meant to serve.

Are there any parallels to photography here?

Haase: I see things similarly: When I take a picture, I have to like it. But a picture is often about someone else’s ideas as well. That’s why I search for a connection to the people who assign me a task, from which I can draw my own inspiration, in order to create my own artistic vision in the end. You could compare it to an actor who is given a role, but then interprets it in his own way.

Ramírez: My work also has an artistic ­component. Though it is probably a bit more limited in our job, because we have to consider a lot of different aspects and technical specifications. But auto­motive design also has this possibility to express yourself. In a way, you give the technology an artistic face. And when the whole team of ­designers and engineers works in harmony, it becomes more than just a functional product. In some cases, it becomes a work of art. And streamlining offers this very beautiful balance between aesthetics and technology.
What about self-driving cars? Would that be something for you, Ms. Haase?

Haase: That would take a lot of faith on my part. [laughs] But honestly: Could you really sit back, close your eyes and let the car drive you? I don’t know if I would want to do that. For me, driving is also about independence. Do self-driving cars mean more freedom? 

Ramírez: I like to compare it to flying. As a ­passenger on a plane, I can’t control the pilot either.

Haase: Okay, I sometimes like to let myself be ferried from here to there as well. But just as much, I like being in control of how I travel. Though it is a tricky topic. On the one hand, driving yourself is about personal freedom. On the other hand, it requires your full concentration and attention. But still, I don’t want to become completely dependent on machines. 

But the other day you called me while driving because you were stuck in traffic and were able to pull out in just the right place to make a phone call in peace. And we realized that a self-driving car could actually be very practical...

→ Read the whole story in ramp #60 »Too Cool to Handle.«.

ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.

ramp #60 Too Cool to Handle.

A magazine about coolness? Among other things. But one thing at a time. First of all, it’s off to the movies. There’s this businessman from Boston who helps relieve a bank of a substantial amount of money. The insurance companies are on to him, but they can’t prove a thing. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of...

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