Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Transport systems and regional aesthetical needs - by Lutz Gelbert (AEG - Berlin, Germany)

Lutz Gelbert train designer in Berlin


In the psychoanalytical annex of Alexander Mitscherlich about the cultural disposition of the human being, he mentions the unresolved problems such as war, hunger, torture as being demonstrations of human forms of rulership. It has become apparent that a fight has started at many different levels about the 'right' form of co-existence. This fight for power has taken on such 'universal dimensions' that it threatens humanity itself with extinction. In this fight for power - whether carried out consciously or unconsciously - the problem of 'transport - traffic' is included. The increasing individual traffic fulfils in its tendency less and less the prevailing need for individual mobility, the number of traffic deaths and injured people increases steadily and has developed more into a prison and a burden for all members of the 'highly civilised society'. All compensatory efforts can only be attained dearly, the costs of which unfortunately are not covered only by the active traffic participants, but by all members of society.

The complexity of all problems connected with the theme of 'traffic' is evidently so great, that as in the case with almost all social problems they tend to drown in the chaos of social power conflicts.

Once one includes these aspects of 'culture' in the balance sheet dealing with the problems threatening human existence and the question put forth by Mitscherlich, namely 'is the human being really suited for culture', then one must for the purpose of finding answers treat the subject matter more differently by reducing the complexity and by structuring the problems.

The component 'traffic culture' offers some initial solutions (at least in its tendency towards solutions which are worthwhile to be considered), in the hope, that the human being proves once again more emphatically capable of constructive behaviour, that is, cultural achievements.

With that we can introduce the theme of 'traffic culture', a concept which appears not to be clearly defined and for this reason open to disputes even before setting out.

Therefore - without claiming it to be an exact cultural-scientific definition of the concept - I want to explain briefly, how I understand this concept and how I will apply it further.

'Traffic Culture' indicates a qualitative, highly valued means by which people's needs for mobility are secured and satisfied. People want to have direct communication linkages and by using traffic routes and means overcome local distances. Qualitative and highly valued means:


Traffic Culture

"Traffic culture" presents itself, therefore, as an overlapping concept which includes - as culture in general - national and regional differences. That is, when shaping traffic systems, regional aspects and transport needs with all their specifications must be considered.

By producing better ways in which to harmoniously link the various external factors influencing the shape of traffic patterns, this will result in higher standards when evaluating 'traffic culture'. The manner in which we satisfy our needs for mobility, essentially today characterizes our living culture. Traffic systems and means have already in the past reflected the level of technical, technological and cultural development of the producer of vehicles, operator and naturally also of the user. In spite of their complexity, they are direct expressions of the cultural and transport policies of the cities and their inhabitants.
In particular, the commuter traffic is a service designed to keep cities alive.

The importance of Greece to European culture is known. However, just as the storchs passed by Ibycus over the Greek peninsula a long time ago, the yearning for mobility was felt in Athens as well as throughout the world. Being not only an artificial product of this century, we must appraise the state of affairs as they are; that is, there is an urgent need for actions, in order to deal with this topic.

To make 'Traffic Culture' particularly in Athens into a broad theme for discussion, the results of which will have an impact upon how traffic will be shaped in Europe and perhaps even in future in still to be developed traffic zones throughout the world, this notion gives me particular pleasure as representative of AEG Track vehicles GmBH. After all our transport enterprise stands in the tradition of having delivered to this country many vehicles.

Daimler Benz

AEG Track vehicles GmbH is as producer of traffic vehicles for the public transport system a part of the Daimler-Benz Transportation Company. High technology, oriented towards the highest product quality at the greatest production efficiency, exists in all branches of the company and is made available to all branches by continual company-internal Know-how-Transfers. The upkeep and promotion of traffic culture is the philosophy of our enterprise.

Traffic Culture for the Future

However, how can that be not only asserted, but be applied as well? Let us look for a moment at what 'Traffic Culture' entails. In order to promote 'traffic culture', production and future traffic system operators must already work closely together during the phase of system conceptualization. That applies as well to system extension. In general, to the liveable area of transport / traffic applies the slogan:

"in creating linkages lies the future"

About how many more streets or track linkages should to be built, that discussion still prevails today, although the discussion will be decided in many places - here I am thinking also about Athens - by circumstances. Unfortunately, increasingly and more often individual traffic breaks down. Unfortunately the responsible politicians and traffic entrepreneurs act only, when they see that their professional and private time schedules are disrupted by chaos. Only once we see that the energy fuel used stands in no relation to the distances covered or let us say to the transport achievements, then we start to think about new or more advanced traffic solutions such as the traditional railway.

Today we have at out disposal the most modern means of communication and computers with logistic programmes. And yet it appears to us that the complexity and the required effort to create in a senseful manner linkages between all traffic participants is hardly an easy task to resolve. Traffic in the best of all cases becomes a test field for researchers of chaos. Our prime task is to bring order into chaos and to develop self-regulating mechanism which will preserve that order.

With that we return again to this magical word 'traffic culture', that shaped and realized mobility of society according to need and expectations. Shaping traffic means to overcome, generally speaking, a kind of acting that is determined by a mechanical way of thinking, insofar we observe and perceive things out of a global perspective. Shaping traffic means also to promote 'traffic culture'. Only then will this connection make sense, in order to view particular components as well as the vehicles in a differentiated manner and to regard them as part of a traffic system.

Once we look at product quality more closely, then the role of the design becomes more apparent: while high-tech with the aim and effect of high reliability and safety has become almost a self-understood essence of traffic, product design has increased in importance at several impact levels. Today it serves the corporate identity (CI) of the producing entrepreneur, the corporation identity of the user operator and finally the attainment of a customer identification by means of design when using the product. Among other things, it is decisive for the acceptance or refusal of the product. The task of the designer, to make an impact upon daily and user aesthetics over and beyond the process of shaping, is very complicated and complex. Especially when comes to export, design takes on a key position. Given equal prices and similar technical-technological know-how, design guarantees the decisive access to customers. This was already true in the past - and certainly applies to you in Athens - since it often tips the scale when deciding to purchase or not.

That national, regional, ethnical and even religious particularities of each country have to be considered by designers when it comes to export orders, that is indeed quite well known, but unfortunately not yet a common practice. Once this aspect is taken seriously, then the designer effectively acts within the overall enterprise as controller and promoter of a product- and image quality - he initiates or affects the product culture - in our case the 'traffic culture' of the country in question.

Keeping this in mind, let us look at some of the results of the work done by the AEG-design team. The work was completed before 1989 within the framework of co-operation developments of the enterprises LEW, DWA, AEG for Greece.


The vehicle was designed under the constraints of a tight budget; it had to be functional, with an emphasis being placed upon the practical. The form of the head, as in the case of all trains with a speed velocity of over 160 km/h, was first tested in a wind channel before finally being accepted for this particular project.

In the case of determining the colours, the design team reacted upon regional differences - chalk dust along certain routes - as well as the high radiance exposure due to the sun which shines so much upon this land of tourism. Therefore, the alabaster white runs over the entire surface of the roof, reducing the heating up of the wagon containers due to its highly reflective surface. The strongly marked side stripes run as a dark colour tone right up to the air screens of the engine head. They serve to reduce, visually speaking, the dirt traces. Yet again another logo is used starting from the walls on the side all the way to the wagon carrier. Once joined with the other, this design produces the typical white 'arrow' logo. This element was consciously thought of as an image sign for one of their high-speed trains. I believe that the recommendation for the development of a CI-concept in the case of the Greek train has hardly been taken notice of up to now. But the train and its characteristic trade marks, its colour graphic, produce an effective logo for travels through the Greek landscape and becomes itself the departure point for a corporate identity.

With that we have come to a further building stone of traffic culture. CI-concepts are an expression of traffic culture and useful to the operator and travelling guests. It has always been underestimated, how important it is for the acceptance of a traffic system to communicate the feeling that the corporation cares about the travelling guests. To that belongs an information system which encompasses everything - by the way a special track of our corporation.

Meta Design

Just now there has been introduced a module shaped commuter train into the Berlin Traffic System. This design has received many prizes. Its design reflects in an exceptional way the regional connection to Berlin, which is considered unruly, fresh and very much up to date, while linked always to tradition. Historically speaking, yellow was always the basic colour tone used by the Berlin traffic system. In connection with the activated yellow and white tone, an air of 'cleanliness' is achieved.

AEG Streetcars in Niederflur

At this occasion, it must be remarked that one has to conceive the CI always as a process, as something that constantly has to be taken care off and developed further, since no design can be introduced over night. The Design studio "Meta Design" of E. Spiekermann with whom AEG has often worked in conjunction with, shows with these examples the necessary steps:

The visual mediation of the corporation's culture and the philosophy of the corporation can be resolved in favour of both the operator and user. A good CI-concept has also the effect, that the travelling guests do not get the feeling that they are treated like a necessary evil, in order to secure the survival of the transport company.

So there remains to be said at this point, that a CI - Concept ought not to be confused with general advertisement. Since advertisement of a miserable product is already after a short time counterproductive.

I will now come back , once again to the vehicle design, because now the connection between individual components becomes evident;
Prior to developing a traffic system with traffic means, an information system and a convincing CI, we have to pose ourselves the following questions:

Unfortunately, these problems are only questioned by designers, but not answered by the affected guests, since they are not asked. To give the right answers and to reflect them in the means of traffic as well as in the surroundings is, however, decisive for the travel experience. The car manufacturing industry has already made use of this knowledge in the case of individual transportation, and everyone answers that question personally when it comes to purchasing a car.
The public transport of individuals still has much room for improving traffic culture and - I am convinced this - will make stronger usage of this in the future.

The question as to the aesthetical level of our public transport is dependent on vehicle design. In that context it has to be stated that for public transport of people there prevails the problem of very different target groups stemming from different social milieus. The slogan is well known: "you cannot satisfy everyone".

Social Milieu

All AEG rail vehicles have therefore the aim to shape the interiors of the vehicles as flexible as possible, in order to satisfy "almost" everyone. To conceive of the wagon as an empty pipe, in order to respond with differently equipped functional groups (driver cabin, travel guest rooms, toilets, entrance areas) to the different needs of customers, this is our praxis which we are trying to perfect at the moment.

Design study RSB 2000

Such 'flexible' concepts for vehicles can be adapted at any moment to the ongoing change in values, in connection with the alterations in need. That is in the case of long term products (life duration of about 30 years) an essential part in the upkeep of a traffic culture.
The functional areas are taken as modules and can, according to the structure of the vehicle be reassembled and realized in a modified manner.

Examples could be given with regards to:
WC Module; Driver-Module
Metro Athens; ISAP Athens, GI, GIII

The AEG (LEW) has delivered before 1990 various vehicles for the Athens' commuter traffic. The GI-vehicle was actually conceived for Berlin's transport system. Nevertheless our corporation has done its best to this vehicle to meet the specific Greek needs - that is quite evident. GIII until ISAP Athens show clearly an improvement in design quality. However, what we designers are lacking, is a concrete feed-back about the acceptance of the vehicle, the experience of the operator, both of which are not only a matter of technical questions, in order to be more responsive in the future to specific traffic needs.

I consider, therefore, this workshop to be a contribution towards customer services and naturally as well as a forum for the mutual exchange of information. We want to know concretely, what we can produce for the Greek traffic system, in order to act consequently and not only to react. We shall deduce from the analysis of visible tendencies, design concepts for future vehicle generations.

Allow me please now to familiarize you with the most recent AEG-design concepts and with realized projects related to traffic culture:
Berlin is at the brink of a new era, but is also facing a break down of street traffic. We have, therefore, developed a whole series of NV (close proximity) traffic vehicles all having a high aesthetical quality while relating concretely to the region.

Further examples could be given with regards to:
S-train BR 485, Duo S-train, Design Metro train BR H
Metro Shanghai, exterior and interior

We developed in the case of the Metro Shanghai a transport vehicle to be used for extreme mass transportation. The requirements were great simplicity, order, sturdiness as well as hygienical clarity. Our intention was to give the vehicle a high originality in correspondence with the specific aesthetical sentiment of the customer of that region. Our Chinese partner made a selection from out of 20 colour designs - an example for how complicated it has been for us, in order to grasp the regional identity. Today one can say, that this vehicle reciprocates with its unique characteristics, the city's identity.

For Guangzhou, the design concept will be of the same technical concept modified in such a manner, that the vehicle can once again contribute to the city's identity, while not being seen as a plagiary.

Guangshou design study

Naturally there are also the cases, in which a transport company expresses wishes which are not in accordance with the AEG- design philosophy - such as the unity of form and colour. It is the policy of the company to always offer in such cases an alternative solution if the customer does not wish to follow this principle of design. For preserving the unity of form and colour is a functional principle for shaping and an advantage for long-term products whereas more fashionable models are avoided.

Middlethurgau Train

In the field of rail vehicles not only has commuter traffic been developed, but also regional traffic between the small cities and the areas surrounding them. Recently for example, we've been working on a proposal to be submitted to the German Railway AG and the state Brandenburg. In particular this kind of transport- and traffic field is of interest for tourism connected with a city. Precisely for this reason there is the demand to cultivate 'travelling' in such a manner, that it becomes a pleasure, that is to say, a 'steam ship voyage on rails'. Thus rail traffic becomes an alternative for the weekend traffic tortured by continuous traffic jams.

Design studies for Rail buses

Between the big prefectures of the German states there is further development at the moment between the Intercity- and Interregio-traffic.

I want to show you now some beautiful examples which demonstrate that 'locomotives' can also be very beautiful.

Example: BR 12X, Driver's cabin, IR
It is of no secret, that the AEG will present in the next months to the world press a prototype of the new generations of highly efficient locomotives.

Hopefully all the examples I have shown you demonstrate that the Daimler-Benz corporation, AEG included, can offer a customer-specific solution . Traffic solutions as a service to the city.

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