Misconception or aspiration?
There are a number of boundary-pushing design concepts circulating the media landscape…
Some people, more specifically – people who don’t work on boats, look at aspirational design concepts and feel a sense of awe and inspiration. Other people, more specifically –people who do work on boats, feel a sense of painstaking disappointment. They see another failing hydraulic, another gimmick, something that’s going to be an absolute pain in the backside to try and keep clean.
I must say, more than I care to admit, I fall victim to the overwhelmingly positive, clickbait articles about any and every boat in the industry that somehow drown out any hope of investigative or critical journalism. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of a single design concept that hasn’t been lauded by the media. Which is strange, because some of them are absolutely ridiculous.
I feel obliged to point out that this is quite a new opinion. Until recently, I didn’t think much of the ‘The latest revolutionary futuristic concept’ articles which clogged up my social media feeds. I thought they were pretty harmless. That was until I embarked on a mission to better understand the design and marketing world of the industry for articles I was writing in the latest issue of The Superyacht Owner Report.
What I found out, was that there are so many good design concepts that optimise space, improve functionality for crew, and consider sustainable features to make refit and repairs more efficient. But unfortunately, they aren’t being spoken about enough because the sketches and animations don’t have the capacity to go viral online. Which is a shame, because so many crewmembers and stakeholders in the industry yearn for practical and useful design concepts.
I do see the benefits of extreme concept designs. I see how they are necessary to help people visualise just how creative and innovative superyachts can be. My issue is with the size of the current spectrum of quality. At one end you have interesting, innovative concepts, that don’t really offer anything ground-breaking, while at the other end of the spectrum, you have wild and wacky designs that seem barely achievable. What’s left in the middle is a ‘conceptual concept’ which offers real innovation rather than ludicrous or ostentatious design.
I spoke to one captain recently who told me, “True innovation, when it comes to the bridge, when it comes to navigation, when it comes to hybrid installations in the engine room, that is always driven by really experienced owners that are well past the gimmick stage. And they might include gimmicks just because they know the resale value of the boat later on is going to be higher.”
I feel that this becomes a part of a wider problem in the superyacht industry, where design becomes dictated by people with dollar signs in their eyes, rather than true visionaries.
Looking across the industry, I feel that there is potential for someone to become the next Jon Bannenberg or the next Zaha Hadid of superyachts. However, at the same time, I feel that more attention should be given to the next generation, who are looking at reinventing the very purpose and idea of what it means to be a superyacht owner.
I suppose that these extreme concepts are somewhat the result of the sense of excitement for the future that is reverberating throughout the industry. But would it not be better to direct that same energy and attention to design features and concepts that address some of the more lacklustre predicaments that hinders the industry from moving into the future?
I think the world is at a point in time where it is better to focus on achievable, sustainable concepts. The crew and service personnel are the second most important people that need to be considered when designing a superyacht. More gimmicks often result in more refit and repair work, which is ultimately at the financial expense of the client, the spirit of the crew, and the wellbeing of the environment.
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