Chris Bangle

Going from strength to strength in the world of automotive design, Chris Bangle began his career at Opel and Fiat before becoming Chief of Design at BMW. After resigning from BMW in 2009, Bangle founded design consultancy and management company, Chris Bangle Associates (featured in SuperyachtDesign Q5). He will be closing this year's Global Superyacht Forum and reinvigorating the crowd on 20th November.

SYD: What is one of your most interesting projects to date?

Chris Bangle: Our studio has a very interesting relationship with Samsung and that has provided most of the amazement around here unfortunately nothing I can talk about. Of all things, the charity project we did this summer for Leucos turned out to be the most "awareness-changing/epiphany-making" project in a long time. The objective was to create a graphic motif for a large lamp to be auctioned off for a children's hospital and after my original design got scotched (rejected) by my associates as being too "politically incorrect" my secretary Fiorella came to the rescue and suggested we do a lamp in the style of the studio architecture –"kintsukuroi"– she even did a sketch. If you don't know it kintsukuroi is a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver rendering the finished fixed piece that much more beautiful for having been broken. We had been using it as a metaphor for how reconstructing our studio in this centuries old borgata has evolved, and it works even better for inspiring children that the aftermath of a crippling fight with serious sicknesses can leave you more appreciated and beautiful than ever. I followed her lead and painted it with my artwork and butterflies the "cracks" gave it a benign smile as well. The lamp was a hit and took in 󌌿,000 at the auction - the second highest amount. I am very proud of Fiorella and how she proved that we are indeed a studio of "Associates". I think all designers should admit the wonderful role their team plays in their creations in the car world it was the modelers who were the saving graces around our studios you never know who will have the best idea.

SYD: What is your involvement with the superyacht industry and why do you feel it is important?

CB: Is it fair to say I am a "fascinated fan"? I am drawn to superyachts partially because it is all car design in the end, and I seem to have a penchant for wrapping it all under one umbrella of car design learning and doing. Some talks and workshops I have held with yacht makers, but I have no superyacht clients and do not want to insinuate otherwise. But I take it to be an "art form" like many others that intrigue and frustrate me. Intrigue because of the scale and scope of design that is possible and frustrated because the market seems so conservative and hell bent on sinking their projects in cliche forms, flabby surfaces, and interior design from decades-old Architectural Digest magazines - the kitschy details and heavy trim gets applied with spatulas. Come to think of it, in that sense superyachts are pretty much the same as "supercars", a moniker that got warped into a new sort of meaninglessness by the stale re-hashing of trite themes and yawn-inspiring aesthetics.

Why is it important? The mere fact that they exist. You know the saying, "What they say what they write what they build - of the three, trust only the last". If automobiles are "what we use" and cars are "what we are", what are superyachts? "What we dream?" Superyachts are a cultural phenomenon that go beyond the shipyards and the wharf, beyond the client and the architect or designer. Symbolically they may represent a dream, but as "built designs", they represent a commitment, and here the story bifurcates. Are they to be a story that repeats the known conclusions and values, or is it a story that will pose questions. Is the most important question they can ask one of how the gangplanks emerge or where to stuff the helicopters? Or will they explore luxury, awe, and amazement in ways we did not think possible?

What sort of culture is the culture of superyachts? It has been said "the measure of a culture is the questions it asks".  So what questions do the designers of superyachts ask? What questions do the clients courageously field for the rest of us? If Michaelangelo were alive today would his Medici sponsors be asking him to sculpt tomb decor or build them a superyacht? Great art, it is said, engages you and changes your point of view. What change do you feel superyachts have brought you? I will admit I am still searching.

SYD: Why do you think events like the Global Superyacht Forum are so important?

CB: I am always hoping that one day the BIG CHANGE will happen at a critical event that I am privileged to be at the type of thing you read about as pivotal moments for catalysing an art movement or paradigm shift.  Every culture needs these encounters to give change a chance. You have to be aware of the mechanisms of change to appreciate them when they are absent one of the reasons I am so critical about car design is that it is the sort of field that lacks the discipline to know when to "lack discipline" - when to engage change. I am curious if superyachts will take the lead and teach us all. I hope there are many speakers at the Forum who truthfully reveal their thoughts and desires, admit their misgivings and pose crucial questions. Superyachts are a culture, that much is clear, the Global Superyacht Forum I would think is their construct for self-awareness.

SYD: What are some interesting and exciting changes you are seeing in your field at the moment?


CB: Olive Wendell Holmes, the US Supreme Court jurist and veteran of the Civil War, is said to have remarked (on seeing his first photograph) "Someday the image will be more important than the real thing eventually it will replace the real thing." Pretty insightful, no? An interesting change I have observed is the reaction to just what Holmes predicted: Image over Substance.  We (designers that is) have circumvented the concept of "democratic design" by allowing the multitudes to create singular expressions in furniture and fashion accessories now the same is happening by replacing "real design" with computer rendered "real conceptual design" that more or less works the same. No need to actually build it enough that the image of your idea is printed or blogged.  

The explosion of scripting and other math-based form-finding processes have also added to the dehumanization of design, but young designers are pushing more and more to restore the "hand of man" in their works. I am hoping that they will eventually understand that ALL designers are somehow "in the way", and the contributions of the multitudes of "Fiorellas" we work with will begin to shine through.

Bangle will deliver the closing keynote presentation on Day 3, Wednesday November 20 from 17:00 - 18:00. If you have any questions you would like to submit to Bangle or topics to be raised during this session, please contact Rebecca Curran. For full details on the programme please go to the website. If you would like to register your place, please contact Suzie on +44 207 801 1014, suzie@thesuperyachtgroup.com, or click here to register online.

We would like to thank our sponsors AdvanTec Marine, Awlgrip, Caterpillar, Cayman Islands Shipping Registry, Clyde & Co., MTN, MTU Friedrichshafen, Palladium, R&Q Marine (Yachtsure24) and Struik & Hamerslag.