We sat down with Valentin Vodev at Radlager café in Vienna to talk about his vision of urban mobility.
How did you get into design?
Basically, I got interested in design because I was not accepted to fine arts school. My parents were both artists so I wanted to make art as well. After this fail, I went into design.
From the beginning, I was fascinated by looking for new solutions in everything. In my professional career, this has evolved into looking for solutions that are better than the existing ones.
Architecture and interior are statics, but the mobility objects should work in a variety of different places. They must work on its own in every situation.
The motives of movement and mobility are common in your work. Why did you focus on this?
I have been interested in mobility since the beginning. I have been interested in movement in general. And also the relationship between a moving object and user attracted me very much. I work to integrate not only the object with the user, but also the object into the environment.
And I like this very much. Architecture and interior are statics, but the mobility objects should work in a variety of different places. They must work on its own in every situation.
The mobility is materialized in bicycles in most of your works. Why?
I love to ride a bike. It gives me a freedom, maybe similar to the freedom people had during the 1950s with the cars. I can go wherever I want, meet people, enjoy the landscape and the city. But this is just my personal view on bikes.
In my professional work, I am looking for a perfect solution for city bikes and mobility in general. I think car does not work in every situation, whereas bike is a great way to keep your own personal mobility everywhere. After some research, I find out that bicycle will be the best solution.
I had many ideas. For example, I made a tricycle that could be folded or other projects.
Your most complex project to date is Vello bike. How did you start it?
We decided to go to Cuba for a holiday with my friends two years ago and we wanted to take bikes with us, so I developed this folding bike for this occasion. We put some prototypes together very quickly and made them ourselves.
We could fold them very well in the baggage and fly with them. All three bikes fitted everywhere, in buses and cars. It was a very new experience for us to have bikes everywhere with us. We got off the bus and we could ride them immediately. So it was comfortable.
In Cuba, there aren’t many cars, so you can ride a bike very easily. People talked to us very often because it is unusual to ride a bike there. We rode throughout Havana and also some bigger distances.
How would you describe this bike?
We wanted to develop a bike for everybody. We wanted to make it as simple as possible. And it means making many custom parts for it. For example, in road bikes or mountain bikes, the components are well developed but in the area of city bikes, there is not so much research. We integrated a light into the stem for example.
Actually our Vello bike is a symbiosis between folding bike and city bike. We didn’t want to focus just on the folding. Otherwise, city bike is quite a huge thing and you cannot go with it to many places, for example to a bus. So we combined the best from both and made it smaller and folding, but with good stability and robust design.
We developed a magnet folding, which is very quick and without any difficult mechanism. Also, there is a big advantage that it’s possible to roll our bike on the street when folded or you can lift it and walk normally. It doesn’t interrupt your movement at all. I know that our bike can’t be folded into very small dimensions and put into a car trunk or so, but it was not our main aim.
How do you want to continue with the project?
We have always been commissioned by companies to design products. But in this project, we knew that if we wanted to produce it, we have to do it ourselves. So the setting of the company is very new for us. It was very tricky and risky, but you have to be a little bit naive or stupid to do it. It is more about your passion and power.
As a designer you have to believe in the product. You have to have very good team around and big motivation. We set up a good team and we founded a start-up company. Until now it has been working fantastic, but it is still in progress. We will see it in the future if it’s successful.
The car doesn’t work in the city in general. So we have to find a more efficient solution, lighter, foldable and more compact.
How do you see the future of city mobility?
Today, you have around ten categories of driving licences from personal car to truck and bus. But I think in the future you will have maybe hundreds of these categories. You will have mobility products that will merge into different groups.
The car doesn’t work in the city in general. So we have to find a more efficient solution, lighter, foldable and more compact. Maybe some tricycle that you will be able to fold and go inside a building with it. I think there won’t be just one solution, but a whole system interconnecting different kinds of mobility. It will be like a puzzle communicating with each other.
Interview & text: Adam Štěch
Text edit: Helena Kardová
Photo: Tomáš Souček, Jan Kloss
Illustration: Jan Kloss