If anyone is going to be dreaming up the outlandish trains of the future, it is definitely Japan, the land of innovations, literally. It has already mastered the levitating bullet train, which has been ferrying its passengers across the country at speeds of up to 580 km/hr for the past two years, and now Seibu Railway Co. wants to build a train that is virtually going to be invisible for onlookers.
Designed by architect Kazuyo Sejima from the Japanese firm Sanaa, who recently received a Pritzker Prize, the Nobel Prize of Architecture, the train will not be completely invisible obviously, but super-reflective. Basically, it blends into its surroundings by reflecting them off its pristine mirrored surfaces.
Expected to hit the tracks some time in 2018, the invisible express will cover over 180 km throughout Japan. “The limited express travels in a variety of different sceneries, from the mountains of Chichibu to the middle of Tokyo, and I thought it would be good if the train could gently co-exist with this variety of scenery,” Sejima said.
If you were not already aware, Japan knows how to design and build trains. Take their Shinkansen trains, for example, which bolt across the Earth reaching tops speeds of 320 km/hr. The country even went as far as to develop a levitating bullet train, dubbed the ‘Maglev train’, which set record speeds by reaching 580 km/hr, since its induction two years ago. So it is absolutely no surprise to hear that Japan is currently looking to build an ‘invisible’ train.
The train itself will not be cloaked in invisibility, but the architects behind the work assert that it will blend into its immediate surroundings via the remarkably reflective mirrored surface. Although not a lot of information has been given about the train’s makeover, it is speculated that that its exterior will be replaced with semi-transparent and mirrored panels, and its overall shape will transform from box-like to bullet-shaped.
Japan is not the only one pursuing the invisibility trend. Land Rover announced the release of its “Transparent Bonnet” at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, which is essentially a cloaking device that allows you to see through the hood of your car.
Again, the car is not actually invisible. The whole thing works via cameras mounted into the grill of the vehicle, capturing what is going on under the hood. The video is relayed back up and projected onto the windshield, so you will no longer have to worry about what is hiding under the car. In any case, with this trend towards invisible vehicles, it does leave one wondering what will come next.
The Japanese architect will redesign both the exterior and interior of the company’s Red Arrow commuter train. An initial rendering shows a semi-reflective surface covering the exterior of the train, something which the architect claimed had ‘never been seen before now.’ Inside, Seibu said the aim was to make the carriages feel like a ‘living room’, so that passengers can relax whilst travelling.
Seibu Group said that the train would be the first designed by Sejima, and that the design aimed to be ‘soft and blend into the landscape’. Sejima’s addition joins and contrasts with the company’s Red Arrow series, which features boldly-coloured stripes intended to make the fleet stand out from its surroundings.
The Seibu Group owns Seibu Railways, which operates around 180 km of railway networks around Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture. Its trains are known for their bright yellow exteriors, although more recent versions have used blue and grey. Designers and architects are frequently brought on board to update transport methods and stations, and while some are applauded, others have been met with fierce criticism.
Sejima – alongside Sanaa partner Ryue Nishizawa – has designed numerous high-profile buildings, including The Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland and a sinuous cultural centre at the Grace Farms nature reserve in Connecticut. The pair were named Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates in 2010, with chair of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Lord Palumbo referring to their work as ‘architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful.’