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Superyacht Design Festival 2022: Q&A with Patricia Viel

26 May 2022• Written by Katia Damborsky

Patricia Viel, together with Antonio Citterio, has developed Citterio Viel into a powerhouse of Italian design that's best-known for land-based architectural projects.  In 2020, the Milanese design studio turned its hand to boats with the launch of Custom Line's Navetta 30. Ahead of her appearance at the Superyacht Design Festival 2022, Patricia Viel speaks to BOAT about the design journey that led to the Navetta 30...

What's your background in boats?

We have worked on several yacht design projects through the years and our most recent yacht interior design project has been for Custom Line’s Navetta 30. At the moment we are working on more yacht interior design projects. What we are aiming to create with these projects are, in fact, environments of informal luxury where people can really feel that they are at sea. For me, yacht interiors are about creating the perfect background for an experience which is very much about the enjoyment of the outdoors. So one of the things that we do is that we create interiors that establish a very strong relationship with the outdoor spaces, through a meticulous selection of furniture, materials and finishes that reinforce this strong bond.

Hero image credit: Giulio Boem. Remaining images credit: Custom Line

What are some of the elements that influence your design the most?

We take inspiration from the context that is the sea. It is essential to think of yachts as spaces that are in movement, floating on water, affected by changing weather conditions, like wind and sunlight. It is through a holistic approach that we find the solutions that work in this special setting, and, at the same time, respond to how people prefer to occupy and move around on the boat. When designing yachts, we think about the life of the spaces, the behaviors and interactions that would happen there, and we aim to tailor every detail of the design in a way that resonates with the needs of people on board.

You’ve mentioned previously that you don’t like interiors that feel cluttered. How do you create interiors that still feel luxurious, without as many ‘fussy’ elements? 

This is a key feature of our designs, yes. Instead of working on ornamentation, we focus on proportions, dimensions, shapes and materiality in the spaces. We articulate the design in a simple language that tells a story about sophistication – a sophistication that is less about wearing a tie at dinner, and more about the luxury of dressing in a simple way, and about living an informal life. It is important to design spaces that make sense in their larger contexts, so it is essential to work with materials, textures and details that work in the marine context and encourage people to appreciate the outdoors, instead of making you feel like you have just returned to the apartment that you have just come from.

You’ve mentioned previously that you’re coming into yacht design with fresh eyes. Do you think this has benefitted you? 

We take the same approach and tools to yacht design as we would do when we design residential spaces, or offices or hotels. This is not to say that we are recreating the same exact spaces. Rather, what we bring from our experience in architectural projects, including large-scale ones in Italy and abroad, is the understanding that we must work on each and every project by taking into account their overall complexity. So what we would do in architecture is that we consider the building site, its context and history as the raw materials of the project. Then, by working on the architectural language and its expressions, we seek solutions that establish dialogues and harmonies with the surroundings. In [the] case of yachts, we often integrate custom-designed furniture that is specially designed to fit the nautical identity of the spaces that we design using BIM (Building Information Modeling) digital design tools that allow for a smooth collaboration among a wide range of professionals during the design process. This way, the design team can work together to make the most appropriate design decisions that respond to the project’s complexity.

When you design yachts, who is the type of person that you imagine living on board? What’s their lifestyle like? 

We always like to imagine how buildings and spaces take shape in the thinking and in the behaviours of the people who use them. For me, yachts are really about what moods they evoke and what actions they attract people to engage in – and this could be defined as elements that would fit a specific lifestyle, if you like. We aim to create spaces that allow people to build a reflective relationship with their surroundings, and really put their mind to what’s happening around them. It’s about bringing them to a place where they should be more often, in a place where they feel more free and less pressured into acting in a certain way.

What’s the one design feature that you’d have to have on board your yacht? 

It is important to give people choice. On yachts we design flexible spaces that can be easily reconfigured according the specific requirements that people might have on board. We do this by selecting furniture that can be re-arranged for different uses. Imagine, for example, that in the lounge area you have a smaller table next to which you can sit down to read a book during the day, and in the evening you can fold out the same table and convert it into a dining table. In fact, in order to achieve this, it is important to treat interior elements and furniture as separate entities so that people are not restricted with furniture that is tied to the yacht, but instead, they can move the furniture around as they need.

Patricia Viel will be sitting down to share her insights about yacht design at the Superyacht Design Festival between 22-24 June in Milan, Italy.

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