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The kidney grille (➜ Read also: The kidney grille through the ages), the distinctive “Sicke” feature line in the side view, for many years the double-round headlamps, the L-shaped rear lights – there are several design features that can be immediately associated with BMW. One of these is the so-called Hofmeister kink. This is the tight curve, or kink, found in the pillar of the rearmost side window (C-pillar on a sedan, otherwise D-pillar). More specifically: according to David Carp, BMW Group Design Identity, the Hofmeister kink traditionally begins in the lower half of the respective pillar. This is not an absolute definition, however. It remains to be seen how this one will evolve.
The Hofmeister kink fulfills at least two important design functions: On the one hand, it works well as a historical design link between BMWs of different generations, past, present, and future. And, it is a design element which helps the eye make the transition from the greenhouse area (that is, the windows, roof, and pillars) to the lower body of the car.
The strongest design icons are not created by a strategy.
BMW Group Design Identity
But, where does the name Hofmeister kink come from? It dates back to former BMW Director of Body Engineering and Development Wilhelm Hofmeister. Incidentally, he was not a designer, but rather an engineer and a division manager. And, at that time, the division manager for body development was also the de facto head of BMW Design. Moreover, according to the BMW design expert Carp, one must admit: the distinctive kink is not a BMW invention, nor did it come from Hofmeister. It had already made its appearance on vehicle bodies in the 1940s, in automobiles from the USA and Italy. First in two-door coupés and even convertibles, and subsequently in saloons as well.
In the mid 1950s, there were already a few drawings showing a kink in the C-pillar. From 1960 on, there were serious proposals for it. According to Carp, the influence of the Italian designers – Giovanni Michelotti and Giorgio Giugiaro (➜ Read also: How to create a classic) – ensured that the element found its start in the design language of BMW – and, thanks to Hofmeister, that it remained.
The prevalent opinion that the kink was “invented” for the purpose of bodywork stability does not hold true for BMW, says Carp. In other words, there is no technical necessity for it. One functional benefit is that the kink allows for a larger side window area in the door, without the integration of an additional window in front of the C-pillar. In regard to design, the curve adds line and surface tension for a more dynamic side view (➜ Read also: This is how to sketch your dream car). It makes the appearance of the vehicle more robust without adding bulkiness, Carp adds.
The Hofmeister kink was first seen on the newly presented BMW 3200 CS and BMW 1500 at the IAA (International Automobile Exhibition) in 1961 in Frankfurt am Main (➜ Read also: The Neue Klasse from BMW). And it has been indispensable in the BMW design language ever since. Hofmeister himself made the kink mainstream, so to speak, and consistently integrated it into the design of subsequent BMW models.
The Hofmeister kink marked the beginning of a new BMW design language.
BMW Group Design Identity
However, as we all know: the exception proves the rule. And so, BMW designers occasionally did without this style element, for example on certain BMW Touring versions, or the BMW Z3 or BMW i3. Apart from that, the varying curve can be found in the roof pillar of every possible bodywork type: saloons, some Touring models, coupés, cabriolets, and SAVs, since the beginning of the 1960s. In this way, the BMW kink achieved cult status and became firmly associated with the cars of BMW.
What is the next step for the distinctive kink? According to Carp, there are no boundaries to its development. The Hofmeister kink is always evolving. A look at the BMW Vision Vehicles since 2009 shows a large variety of interpretations of the Hofmeister kink, explains Carp. Sometimes the kink takes the foreground, sometimes the background. Sometimes it is sculpturally pronounced; in other cases, graphically. Additionally, the newest BMW Vision Vehicles present a new dimension to discover: the classic Hofmeister kink geometry can now be used as the stage for electrically controlled graphic effects. The Hofmeister kink is sometimes more pronounced, sometimes less, larger or smaller, rounder or more angular. But it always remains one thing: a fixed and distinctive element of the BMW design language.
What is the Hofmeister kink from BMW?
The Hofmeister kink is a design element of BMW vehicles. The term refers to the kinked transition between the C- and D-pillars in the bodywork section of the window line. Its name dates back to the former BMW engineer and division manager, Wilhelm Hofmeister. The stylistic device, like the kidney grille, is considered a BMW design icon.
Author: Nils Arnold; Art: Madita O'Sullivan, Shin Miura; Animations: Madita O'Sullivan, Carolin Wabra; Photos: BMW/BMW Group Archive