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January 2005

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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Article by
Matteo Antonelli, Marco Pasquini and Andrea Ramazzotti

Aspects of superyacht design methodology

Two, three, four, five decks and... if you've got more, add them on! Today this seems to be the "parameter" that characterises the magnificence and majesty of the queens if the sea: superyachts.

To this "parameter", which immediately identifies the size in terms of usable surface area and "cubature", to employ a typically architectonic term, there is not always a corresponding three- dimensional and "stylistic" check of the external disposition of masses. It may even happen that the extremism and the requirements of owner or yard alter the rhythms, the proportional relationships visible chiefly in the external architecture of the yacht.

It is in this continual seeking of proportions, relationships between full and empty, between static and dynamic, between gracefulness and aggressiveness, between complexity and linearity, between family feeling and uniqueness that the architect /designer assumes great responsibility for the final result of the boat- object.

The close connection between internal and external space is clear and indubitable. It is almost always the organisation of the internal spaces that dictates the positioning of the full or empty masses perceptible from the outside; and in any case, on a smaller scale, the space perceived and experienced aboard is always "governed" by the ergonomics of man, understood as the sum of the three components, anthropometry, biomechanics and proxemics.

These motivations may in brief be considered among the main variables (without forgetting the regulations of course!) that determine the external morphology of megayachts.

Another aspect that should not be underestimated is the construction material. As long as we remain in the sphere of fibreglass (at present not used on vessels over 45 metres) the potential for moulding masses, modelling curves and sinuous surfaces is almost infinite, whereas the use of materials such as aluminium and steel - due both to their mechanical characteristics and to the work processes they undergo - limits the possibilities of three-dimensional modelling. This however takes nothing away from the magnificent results to which metal megayacht designers and yards have accustomed us.

We already pointed out how much the design of the interior is reflected in the exterior. Now let's look at the criteria that chiefly influence the designer in approaching the subdivision of the superyacht-object. Certainly the most important aspect is the owner's customisation.

The first impulse, as conceptual as it is economic, comes precisely from the customer who often sketches out guidelines for the yard with the basic ideas or suggestions behind his intentions. It is the designer's task to fit these desiderata into a design that highlights their features and at the same time makes the most of them in an organic and balanced project.

The owner's requests often relate to the spaces and environments he will be living in personally or to specific functions, depending on the envisaged use of the superyacht: residence, holidays, business, showpiece, meetings and so on. Nevertheless in all cases a basic scheme may be found, a matrix on which to graft, little by little, certain variants that may be radical to a greater or lesser degree. Such a scheme of subdivision may be easily traced in all the superyachts produced or in production and is based on design themes that take account of both the technical complexity of the object and the exclusive nature of its function.

We can certainly state that the first need is to sketch out the hull design in function of the indicated length parameter, select the construction material and then the building technology.

Having obtained the "container" of the design it must then be engineered, taking account of any performance requirements specified by the owner, such as top speed, cruising speed, range etc.. The first "stakes" the designer has to drive in are therefore of a technical nature: the body onto which the selected subdivisions will be grafted.

One of the factors conditioning design of the interior is flow, understood as the overall movements, routes and hierarchies, in a dynamic key, of the "families" living aboard: the owner and his guests on the one hand and the crew on the other.

A fundamental requirement is that the various activities on board be carried out with great discretion, guaranteeing the privacy of the owner and his guests and good living and working conditions for the crew. From this derives the need to double, in the design, both meeting spaces and sleeping spaces, employing differentiated and detached passageways. Two distinct zones are thus created whose points of contact are those strictly necessary to the crew for carrying out their assigned functions.

The hierarchical nature of spaces aboard is valid for both the VIP and crew areas: if the skipper corresponds to the owner, the guests correspond to the crew members. The parameters determining these hierarchies are first of all those deriving from advantages of position, meaning visibility, privacy, silence, easy access to the sea etc..

Another extremely topical theme is the relationship with the water and the design of open air spaces. Interesting evolutions in recent years have concerned, precisely, the design of these areas and in many cases are the most important novelties in superyachts launched over the last few years. If it is true that with the increase in yacht size the design of interior furnishings moved increasingly away from a compositional language of naval or seagoing origin, it is also true that there is now an attempt to repair that break precisely by "opening" superyacht spaces to the water and to dialogue with external space through the invention of solutions and the addition of functions that integrate the passage from interior to exterior, right down to contact with the surrounding environment.

In designing interior furnishings a lot depends on inputs from the customer, and today many fields have been explored in this sense, with compositional logics ranging from the most classic and redundant to the essentiality of minimalism. Much still remains to be written in the field of materials used for interiors. Other sectors of transportation design seem to be farther ahead, and many important pleasure craft shipyards have begun to take them as reference points, especially those yards that have mass production lines and are therefore far closer to industrial optimisation logics. It is precisely in this intermediate position, between pleasure craft and full size ships, where there are no limitations of money on the one hand and no industrial standardisation criteria on the other, that the designer can find space to dare and to experiment with alternative solutions for the creation of these magnificent superyachts that sail our seas.