During the annual Superyachts UK Technical Seminar, a discussion on conceptual designs was held with BMT Nigel Gee, to examine the process of materialising some of the industry’s more radical concepts. For an industry bursting with creative talent and diversity, it’s surprising that so many of the innovative ideas we see on concepts don’t make it onto real projects, but what is it that’s preventing the transition?
“Achieving the believable is relatively easy, technically and commercially,” says Alex Meredith Hardy, naval architect at BMT Nigel Gee. But it’s the fantastical projects which are high risk and commercially challenging for any design studio. As Meredith Hardy explains, “Time will grate away at you as will the commercial pressures of paying work need to take priority.”
But conceptual design is such an important aspect of design in any field, it’s how we advance ideas and develop as an industry, whether they are used internally or presented to the market. The process doesn’t generate any revenue, but it certainly lays the foundations for future thinking.
“The reality of our industry is that innovation is slow to be adopted,” says Meredith Hardy. “We don’t have the frequency or the turnover of projects required to pull bolder ideas into reality. It takes a very adventurous client that is prepared to take financial and technical risks, and these clients are a niche within a niche, as the majority of clients are quite conservative.”
As with so many concepts, it’s very easy to note all of the aspects which are unachievable, but boundaries can always be pushed and “The only thing that can’t be changed are the laws of physics,” says Meredith Hardy. “Barriers such as restrictive regulatory compliance, established engineering and construction practices and industry-specific limitations can all be challenged.”
Interestingly, it’s the team behind the project which is arguably the most important factor for BMT Nigel Gee. Due to the broad range of skills required, the success of the project’s transformation from concept to reality bears not on its feasibility, but the dynamics of the team. “If you can get the right team together, you’re 80 per cent of the way to success,” says Meredith Hardy.
Although compromises will ultimately be made to the design where essential, materialising even the more futuristic projects is possible. It just needs an owner that is prepared to take a substantial risk and a well organised team whose agendas and attitude are on track to make the project a success.