Generally speaking, architects are brilliant and creative people with a wide range of talents. That sort of versatility is part of what makes them good architects in the first place. But let’s be honest. Just because some people are good at a lot of things does not mean they’re good at everything. Take yachts, for instance.
For whatever reason, architects like to design yachts. It doesn’t matter if they know anything about how boats work or what actually makes a vessel seaworthy. They like to design yachts — especially superyachts — and they like them flashy. What tends to ensue is an elastic set of assumptions about the balance between form and function. Or lack thereof.
Let’s look at a few examples, and try to discern the yachts that can actually float from the yachts that look like the architect’s design software got a virus and just mashed up a bunch of volumes into a single alien form.
Here’s a great example of a famous architect who likes forms that seem highly incompatible with nautical engineering. Hadid recently designed this “concept superyacht”, which, to be frank, looks like a cross between a moth-eaten cigarette and an alien turd. Boatbuilder Blohm+Voss said in a press release that Hadid “created an intense connectivity between the various decks and elements of the design.” She created something intense alright.
It’s almost hard to tell if this is even a boat. Shaped like some sort of ray, Timon Sager’s futuristic ship, dubbed the Bairim, features a no-resistance design that’s meant to let it zip through the ocean with efficiency. The wide open cabin makes for a comfortable living space, with floor-to-ceiling windows on either side and, apparently, a movie theatre. Because that’s what everybody wants to do with then get on a boat: watch Jaws.
You probably know Norman Foster’s style from “The Gherkin” in London or the Hearst Tower in New York City. Believe it or not, his firm’s aesthetic carries over into its nautical work. The 37m-long Ocean Emerald was christened in 2009 and is currently shared by a bunch of multi-millionaires. The outside looks like a chrome-plated cocoa bean. The inside looks like a Norman Foster museum — since he literally designed every surface and object on the boat.
There’s a lot going on here. The size of an old-fashioned tall ship and the form of a very old-fashioned Grecian warship, the aptly named Phoenicia is a bit of a hybrid. At over 90m long, the conceptual boat is almost impossibly large, apparently designed for long ocean crossings. And since it’s outfitted with a helipad, it’s also evidently ready to host any supervillains in need of refuge.
Phil Pauley’s a dreamer. While this self-described “conceptual designer and futurist” is better known as owner of an eponymous interactive design firm, Pauley dabbles in yachts (not to mention underwater habitats). His Cruiser series make the assumption that superyachts need to be super versatile, so each ship is convertible. Not only do the tops lift off — or rather, rise up — to make a whole new “party deck” open up, but the sides also open up, revealing wings that will enable the yacht to lift off and — oh yeah, fly. Now that’s a superyacht. I should be more specific: that’s a concept superyacht.
The elegantly named Italian architect and mastermind behind the New York Times Building has designed the rare yacht that actually looks like a yacht. His most famous boat, The Kirribilli, is modelled after the J Class, which competed in the America’s Cup back in the 1930s — and boy is it handsome. While the decks are wooden and the look classic, it’s actually made out of high performance materials, making the vessel both fast and smooth. Just a like a yacht should be.