Gianluca Gimini The artist building bikes from mis-remembered drawings

Cover Image - Gianluca Gimini

Before you read any further here’s a quick test – grab a pen and a piece of paper and draw a bike from memory. How did you get on? This seemingly simple task is the starting point for Italian designer Gianluca Gimini’s project Velocipedia.

It started back in 2009 when a friend told him a funny story about a schoolmate getting in a hopeless mess when trying to draw a bike for his tech ed teacher. The friend then got a pen and tried to prove how easy it was to draw a bike – only to find it really, really wasn’t.

Intrigued, Gianluca started carrying a pen and paper around with him and challenging friends, family and total strangers to see if they could draw a bike. “Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request, most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did get close, some actually nailed it, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s bicycle.”

Over the years Gianluca collected 376 sketches, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The oldest participant was 88 and the youngest just three, and 11 different nationalities are represented in the current collection.

“There is an incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings,” Gianluca says. “A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes, and this is why I look at this collection in such awe. Everyone, regardless of his age and job, can come up with extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.”

And so bowled over by the diversity and invention on show, Gianluca used his professional skills to render the sketches into realistic photographic images. This gives the project a whole new lease of life. While some are immediately ridiculous, with others it takes a a few seconds’ study to work out where they have gone wrong.

What Gianluca later found out is that psychologists commonly ask patients to draw a bike to prove how deceptive memories of commonplace objects can be, and so Velocipedia is of scientific as well as creative interest.

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