Renowned Russian industrial designer working on a flying car

The man behind the design of the Rus Russian spacecraft and the Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft is looking to cement his legacy with a very difficult project.

Source: Vladimir Pirozhkov

The 2014 Sochi Olympics torch, the Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft, the new Russian spacecraft Rus, as well as dozens of cars that could be seen in practically any street all over the world – these are all the creations of the Russian ‘designer of the future,’ Vladimir Pirozhkov. He is now heading an industrial design and innovations centre in Moscow and dreams of creating a mass-produced flying car.

“The missions of industrial design in Russia and in the West are different,” Pirozhkov says. “Russia's task is to reach a competitive level, so that our goods become desirable in any part of the world. In the West, all manufacturers are already very advanced from the technological point of view. Their aim is to increase their share in the number of super-cool products sold.”

An illustrious career

Vladimir Pirozhkov was born in 1968 in Chisinau (in the then Soviet republic of Moldova) in a family of engineers and went to study industrial design in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In his fourth year at university, Pirozhkov and his friend saw a newspaper clipping of the world famous Swiss bio-designer Luigi Colani with a snow-white Chevrolet Corvette in the background, and got the idea of trying to get an internship with Colani. In the end, they managed to get an invitation from him by post and to get to Switzerland.

After the internship, Pirozhkov continued his studies at the Art Centre College of Design in Switzerland and then received a job offer to work as an interior designer at the French automobile manufacturer Citroën. The designer considers Citroën C3 and C6 to be his best works of that period. The latter model was originally intended for the French president: the team of designers had the challenging task of drawing a supercar, capable to surpass the legendary Citroën DS, which had been used by all the previous presidents and which featured in the cult French film ‘Fantomas.’

In 2000, having moved to Toyota Europe Design Development in Nice as a senior designer, Pirozhkov was in charge of developing prospective models for 2020-2025 and worked on creating such popular models as Yaris, Avensis, Corolla, Celica, Prius, RAV4, and concept cars MTRC and UUV. His personal achievements include the bestselling small family car Auris and iQ, a small ‘cube on wheels,’ which despite its small size turned out to be a very safe car.

Journey home

An instrumental role in Vladimir Pirozhkov's return to Russia in 2007 was played by the then economic development and trade minister of Russia, German Gref, who now heads Russia's biggest retail bank, Sberbank. Gref visited the Toyota centre in Nice and invited Pirozhkov to move to Moscow, promising to set up an equally advanced working environment for him there. That was how Pirozhkov founded and is now heading a multi-sector industrial design and innovations center, AstraRossa Design, in Moscow.

“When I returned to Russia, I realized that as far as car design was concerned, there was nothing for me to do here since the main plants have been sold abroad and are now engaged only in complete knock down assembly of foreign makes. My father built the Volzhsky automobile plant, and my grandfather, who too was an engineer, designed sewing frames in Ivanovo, and when the Great Patriotic War began, managed to increase their productivity several-fold to make more overcoats and blankets for the front. Now is my turn to create something,” he says.

In Russia, Pirozhkov designed the trademark style and colours of the Sukhoi Superjet-100 civil aircraft as well as the interior of a new six-seat spacecraft Rus. He is now building a unique complex prototyping laboratory (for the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys), which will make it possible to create practically any object up to spacecraft and cybernetic organisms. It is proposed that the laboratory will offer training and an internationally recognized diploma to engineering graduates from Russia's best universities and institutes.

Pirozhkov has many projects he is working on. For example, an autonomous house, allowing for a comfortable living without any outside infrastructure or communications. Or a personal water purification system for Southeast Asia, in the shape of a small portable pipe.

His dream is a mass-produced ‘transport of the future,’ individual aeromobiles. “An aeromobile could become our national idea, a globally competitive product that could strengthen Russia's positions among world leaders,” he says.

At his lectures, Vladimir Pirozhkov often shows to his students a photo of the study of Sergey Korolev, the outstanding Soviet designer, considered to be the founding father of the Soviet space program and rocket building. In the picture, there is a simple desk, covered with a plain cloth, with a telephone, and a lamp.

“The oligarchs of today are just selling what our grandfathers built, the legacy of the giants,” says Pirozhkov. The most important thing, he is convinced, is to make the new generation of Russian designers understand that just to sell and consume is a path nowhere, it is necessary to create something new and to move forward.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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