I was scrolling down my Facebook, just browsing the images and passing time. I was stopped abruptly by an image of a boat. A beautiful boat. It was a photograph of the So’Mar yacht by my dear friend Riza [Tansu].
I must confess that I am not a ‘yacht man’. My interest in the sea and boats is almost nil, save for a few academic readings on the development of the technology of sea transport. And my appreciation of yachts does not go beyond the mere images of them, no governed by the techniques of sailing, hydrodynamics of the hull, market requirements. Yet, this is the exact reason behind the impact So’Mar made on me.
As an architect-turned-designer, I belong I guess to the last generation of modern architecture and design. We grew up with sombre and Spartan looks of ‘less is more’. With the austerity of post-war Europe in contrast to the affluence of post-war America, we learnt to appreciate the concept of the honesty of design. We had seen examples of good form, ballace of mass, articulation of parts in the works of Bauhaus masters, and I have seen all these elements, so important for me, in that image of So’Mar. Photographs I had seen later, both exterior and interior, made my appreciation grow.
The first concept that I could think of was ‘power’. Power that emanates from the form; surfaces of the for, surfaces defined by straight lines and right angles. Masses of the form, their articulations. Power as a skilful practice of a Gestalt approach. Power of a wedge that thrusts itself through water, dominating it, not subservient to its resistance. The wedge is the natural and traditional shape for boats since many centuries. The only choice. But the shaping of So’Mar’s wedge and bow, the 90-degree angle it attacks the water, becomes a pure expression of power. Ice break ships and tugboats jump to my mind, and, for that matter, WW1 warships. What is the straightforward lunging into the body of the water without any compromise. Not the gentle slicing of a knife but the forceful cut of an axe.
Then, the second concept for me was that ‘un-gentleness’. The pure, perhaps brutal, expression of force. The general tendency of yacht design centres around lines swept back gently like the branches of a willow tree, rippling from the wind. They are all graceful lines, like the ones in Aubrey Beardslay prints or pre-Raphaelite paintings. They also mimic the streamlined designs of the ‘30s. But a yacht superstructure need not be more streamlined that Henry Dreyfuss’ pencil sharpener. After all, their speed is a fraction of a mediocre car, let alone an F1 racer that had to be streamlined. The superstructure of So’Mar is boxy, owing nothing to the willow but to the solemnity of plane tree. The prismatic masses that make up that superstructure has a pyramidal composition, a very stable and strong outlook, not unlike the pyramids and Mimar Sinan mosques.
The third concept that I depend on is the visual order of the surfaces. All the visual forces—lines, areas, points, solids and voids, figure/ground configurations, proportions—are the best they can be, possessing the restrained aesthetics of the dieter rams design. Perfect Gestalt engineering.
So, in that first glance, I was seduced by So’Mar’s powerful and well-thought-out form, further accentuated by its colour: grey.
Later on I had the chance to see photographs of its interior. In order to relay my impression correctly I have to resort to a short academic talk. Nowadays what they call ‘minimalism’ passes for modern design. Completely wrong. Minimalism is the devaluation of modernist principles. Minimalists believe that pure geometry is enough for good design. They hardly work on the principles of modern design, which I do not need to list here. So, if the interior of So’Mar is said to be good minimalist practice, I object to this. They are good modernist interiors, fulfilling all necessary principles—perfect surfaces, good proportions, fine detailing, respect to materials—and apparent sense of space.
Second glance, and seduction is complete.
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