9 things we learned at the Superyacht Design Symposium 2015
2015-02-25By Risa Merl

The world’s top yacht designers, builders and superyacht owners left the water behind and headed to the mountains of Austria for the Superyacht Design Symposium 2015 where exciting debate on all things yacht design ensued. Here are some of the top takeaways.

1) Glass in superyacht design is a divisive issue

Designing with the material is not as clear-cut as it might seem. While some builders and designers are embracing glass others see its prevalence as a gimmick. A concept for a glass bottom superyacht specifically had the crowd split.

But speaking in support of the use of glass, Feadship’s Ronno Schouten explained that since the yard’s Glass Research program was founded in 2006, the Dutch builder is using more glass than ever before. Feadship has had great success with its glass-centric yacht designs, namely the ultra-secret Venus, built for Steve Jobs, and the highly innovative Como, which swept the ShowBoats Design Awards.

Top of the glass: 78m Feadship yacht Venus. Photo by Tom van Oossanen

2) Designing a yacht is like packing a suitcase

When discussing where he starts first when designing a yacht, inside or out, yacht designer Terence Disdale says his design process must start with a design brief to know what the client expects to put in the yacht. “I liken it to packing a suitcase: there are two ways to put everything into a vessel as there is two ways to pack thing in a suitcase,” Disdale says. “One results in you having to sit on the lid to close the suitcase!”

Lifetime achievement award-winning designer Terence Disdale says, “Assuming you know long the vessel can be, then general arrangement is the first part. Part and parcel to that, the main criteria is the engine room size and air ducting.”

Peder Eidsgaard goes on to back up Terence Disdale’s theory by stating what most already suspected – there isn’t such thing as a no-compromise yacht. “Owners ask if there is a no compromise yacht, but there is no such thing,” he says. “If we make a compromise on the exterior, we know it will lead onto the interior.

“We are all designers with different backgrounds and different working methods doing much the same thing basically, trying to figure out, as Terry said, how much you can fit into the suitcase, how to best organise, and it all goes back to the brief,” says Peder Eidsgaard.

Star-studded panel of designers with (L to R): Terence Disdale, Andrew Winch, Peder Eidsgaard, Espen Øino and Tim Heywood

3) Art collections on board superyachts can be up to four times the value of the vessel

Some art collections on board yachts are so grand they outweigh the value of the yacht itself, often many times over. Which is why it is so important to consider these five things when displaying fine art on superyachts.

SnowbirD is practically an art gallery in itself with the amount of collectible art she has on board

4) The inspiration for the Tina Green-designed yacht Illusion V came from a single flower

Tina Green designed 58 metre Benetti Illusion V, which made its debut at the Monaco Yacht Show 2014. Amidst travertine walls, coconut furniture and a stingray staircase feature are a garden of roses in her detailed bespoke design. It is this single flower that inspired the entire yacht’s style, in fact, as designer Tina Green revealed on the stage of the Superyacht Design Symposium 2015.

Illusion V rose detailing

5) Outsiders question if the yachting industry is keeping up with the times

It took a relative outsider in famed architect Piero Lissoni to hold up a mirror to the superyacht industry. Piero Lissoni asked some of the hardest hitting questions, and wondered aloud if the yachting industry is keeping up with the times.

“It’s a high-tech industry, use the best design in the world, the best technology, best money, but at the same time, completely disconnected with modernity,” Pieori Lissoni said to the crowd of superyacht designers, builders and owners.

Piero Lissoni also questioned why designers would create something that conflicted strongly with their own personal aesthetic, “If I don’t like the a taste of my client, I will never take on the work,” he said.

Superyacht designers were up for the challenge and the feedback. “Input from other worlds is so interesting, it’s always good to have someone else’s opinion,” says Mario Pedol of Nauta Yachts, designer of the world’s largest yacht Azzam.

As for the question of taste and modernity? Mario Pedol says the global nature of the superyacht industry drives aesthetics. “It’s a worldwide market and being that it’s influenced by different cultures. Americans are usually very traditional with interiors. Russians love imperial style, not all of them, but a majority. Middle Eastern clients have another taste again. So I find it quite understandable that some designers have specialised in different styles and tastes. You can say you don’t like this or that, but that’s subjective. Meanwhile, many designers and builders in the last 20 years that been very innovative have designed very high quality, simple, clean, valuable designs comparable to land interior design or product design.”

6) Regulation shouldn’t inhibit innovation

Regulation is often the elephant in the room. During the Superyacht Design Symposium technical workshops, this elephant got a good once over. Much debate ensued over how much glass technology can really evolve if there is too much regulation to get in the way, with designer Martin Francis saying: “A rule needs to be as up to date as the technology it’s trying to affect, otherwise it affects logic. It can’t be something that stands in the way of something that can be proven.”

The regulation debate also showed up in a workshop on platforms where the merits of Passenger Yacht Code were questioned. Audience members wondered, is getting a few more guest accommodations worth the bother of the extra red tape?

7) Stairways prove the evolution of yacht design

Want proof that superyacht design is ever evolving? Just look at staircases, says Andrew Winch. “Used to never have comfortable staircases, now the length of tread has changed,” says Andrew Winch, who discussed designing yachts based on ergonomics.

Andrew Winch is lauded as rethinking superyacht stairways and foyer design as far back as two decades ago, when staircases were seen as little more than ways to connect decks.

Examples of why Andrew Winch is called the King of Stairs

8) A coffee machine can be a work of art and take forever to perfect

Architect Piero Lissoni showed off one of his finest creations, a coffee maker that he said took nine different versions to perfect. The Alessi contemporary, cast aluminium coffee machine by is a beautiful piece of design indeed

The Alessi coffee machine designed by Piero Lissoni

9) Even famous yacht designers check out each others’ new shoes

Designers will tell you that inspiration comes from everywhere, but how about a new pair of shoes? While prepping for their photo shoot, legendary designers Espen Øino, Remi Tessier, Terence Disdale and Andrew Winch take a peek at Tim Heywood’s new shoes. Pictured, Terence Disdale reaches to pull up Tim Heywood’s trouser leg so the designers can take a closer look at the new kicks.

Legendary yacht designers check out Tim Heywood’s new shoes

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