The Unique Circle concept at night

UK, London. The concept, called Unique Circle Yachts, was presented to the public last night at the David Gill Gallery in London, after a special private viewing at the new Zaha Hadid-designed Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens on Sunday. Presented as both a core concept—an extreme, asymmetric rendering that evoked a dorsal fin on a surfacing humpback whale with organic whorls reminiscent of coral—and six versions based on a proven 90m Blohm + Voss hull platform. Hadid’s design comprises both exterior styling and interiors, down to the Liquid Glacial tables and other furniture also on display at the gallery.

Unique Circle Yachts, concept by Zaha Hadid & Blohm+Voss

“Until now, we’ve had to wait for a client to come to us with their idea and design, and there could still be a tendering process,” said Aly. “When we decided to come to market with our own concept, it had to be something truly unexpected and exceptional. That was the basis of this collaboration with Zaha Hadid."

Dr. Herbert Aly, CEO of Blohm + Voss shipyard

The yard will continue to build one-off, full custom yachts entirely of the client’s design choice, but as Aly explained, he is keen to balance the yard’s business plan and take a proactive approach to the market. “This kind of project is not for a broad market of clients,” he said. “This is for a very unique set of clients who might consider Zaha Hadid as their designer. I bet there are two or three yachting customers out there who would love to have something from her.”

Zaha Hadid

According to Aly, the market for increasingly complex, full-custom yacht projects is strengthening, and while the yard has not researched whether a specific client already exists for Unique Circle Yachts, they believe that Hadid’s exceptional reputation in architecture and design will land exclusive clients. A cooperation agreement binds the designer and yard to the concept for an undisclosed but “sufficient” length of time to see one or more of the concepts seen through to delivery.

“It will be expensive, as everything from Zaha is,” Aly said. “This is not a project where you can see the exterior styling is done by X and the interiors are dome by Y. Here, the interior and exterior are connected in a fluid dynamic it’s one philosophy. My best guess is that this will be built when both the interior and exterior are in Zaha’s hands.”

Views of "Unique Circle," with core concept on the right, and B+V render on the left

The 128m Unique Circle core concept was conceived as an interwoven network of dynamic meshes on the exterior. Taking cues from nature, this structure varies in thickness and density and is reminiscent of growth patterns found in nature. This pattern can been seen in exoskeleton, which connects the various levels and decks of the yacht.

The exoskeleton connects the various levels and decks of the yacht

The yard, which has undergone significant change and reorganisation since its previous owners Thyssen Krupp decided to sell the non-military divisions to Star Capital Partners, is currently busy completing the new build Graceful, and building four frigates under contract to Thyssen Krupp. They also have two 80m+ refits underway. But from 2017, as the military work concludes, Aly plans for the yard to be focused entirely on the build and refit of custom superyachts.

“We are in the development of a project that is longer than Azzam and even more complex than Eclipse, but for us it comes down to whether the yard can handle the volume of the project on schedule and on budget,” continued Aly. “I would have been careful with this Philippe Starck project, White Pearl. I would only have done that project on an open-book, cost-plus basis. Otherwise, if you’re working on a project that is experimental on a turn-key basis, you need to nearly double the price to balance your risks.”

Close up of the aft pool on the 90m

The yard is currently working on a project for a client who Aly said asked the yard to build him something similar to Eclipse. “He said, ‘it should be faster, it should be longer, and I need a dining room for 100 people over three decks.’ That’s all. That’s where it starts. That could become an order in a year’s time. It’s always a story about individuals and their ideas and preferences. If you believe you have seen it all, it’s never the case.”
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