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2022-07-20 18:00

Antonio Vettese



The future of innovation lies in tradition.

Innovation is the watchword for all construction sites. The future of innovation lies in tradition.




Innovation is the watchword for all construction sites. The future of innovation lies in tradition.



Sea and design, that design that now surrounds us and fills life as vital and necessary, the design that has changed its meaning in the common perception by stripping off the depths of only being at the service of habitability in order rise in the lightness of aesthetics.

The history of architecture has given us important influences, in both directions. A ship was viewed as a symbol of spatial logic and essential aesthetics during the rationalism era.

On the ships in which Giò Ponti intervened, he brought an unmistakable taste and culture that remain an example of true luxury and an answer to the demands of the sea, of transport, when getting on an ocean liner meant an Atlantic voyage.

Although a boat, even a pleasure boat, has been made better manageable and easy to use, it retains a density of implicit contents: it cannot be forgotten that, only five centuries ago, navigating "the infinite sea" was like traveling to the Moon today, or even further… to Mars. A ship and sailing served to discover the world, and this remains an emotional experience that awakens unconscious feelings.

Roland Barthes in his book Myth today writes about the Nautilus of Jules Verne, a writer who knew ships and their imagery well. Born in Nantes, Jules fled at the age of eleven by boarding a ship bound for India, immediately rescued by his father.


The submarine of Captain Nemo is a corner of the hearth, from which through a glass, without worry, you can see the sea "since it is enough to give a ship as a home to man, so that man can immediately organize the enjoyment of it by creating a round and smooth universe, of which on the other hand a whole nautical morality makes him the god, and at the same time the lord and master (only master on board)". The boat becomes "the joy of closing-in perfectly, of keeping the maximum number of objects under hand, of having an absolutely finished space"

Those who know the owners know of the manic radicalism with which they often transform the boat into a fetish much more than any house, car, object of their daily life. Your boat cannot be discussed and touched. 

The power of the sea could deliver the final blow and this justifies (fortunately, not always) the imprisonment of the guests while sailing. Safety, especially for the sailor population, overlaps with the ego, as brokers who have developed superfine techniques are well aware of this, moving seamlessly between refined architectural culture and trivial orator skills.


The market however, even if it continues to use the dream vision of the boat, a non-place that allows any type of escape or display of oneself and of others as a buying driver, has profoundly changed its grammar, especially in that higher and noble market segment that becomes, as always, an avant-garde. A military term, which marks the fate of those who try yet do not always come make it back alive: it has also happened in yachting, and assets have been burned more than lives.




We can identify some "great innovators" who have laid the foundations for transformation. They are certainly not the only ones, but they are the ones who believed most intensely in innovation, in the value of change that was not just the indication of an owner but the working method of a shipyard, of an industry. And here is the difference, innovating for a sector, creating a school or not. The “Made in Italy£ is a world school in yachting. Our polytechnic schools, especially those in Milan, are at the top of the world rankings and yet their position is attacked.


It is precisely our students who seek experiences abroad, look elsewhere and fall into a sort of trap: it is the Italian design that is appreciated all over the world. The school of our great masters that somehow still resides within the walls of the schools. We have the inventors of modern design: the Castiglioni brothers, Enzo Mari, Ettore Sottsass and many others. Nevertheless…


Among the sailing boats, a symbolic product of this change was Wally B, built by Luca Bassani's Wally Yachts and designed by Luca Brenta with Lorenzo Argento. So, welcomed were the interiors of two designers who had never worked on a boat until then, and the Roman studio Lazzarini & Pickering continued on designing for other shipyards, such as Benetti. Luca Bassani with Wally moved on along the demanding wave of technology to make the boat "fast and easy". Before Wally B, a symbolic boat was Genie of The Lamp: an 80-footer which thanks to innovations, the hydraulic assistance of the adjustments was easy. Wally Power, highly criticized for many solutions such as the three hydrojets, with its lines, however, marked the idealism until it became a model for increasingly popular copies and clones.


All shipyards operating in the engine use “design” as a purchasing driver, trying to give value to the brands that design for them. Many do it, but the biggest boost, however, probably comes from Sanlorenzo who chose Piero Lissoni as artistic director. A choice by Massimo Perotti, owner of the Sanlorenzo shipyard, he is someone who has always believed in design and ideas. When he was an Azimut executive he wanted the first side hull windows (Azimut 68) which were the beginning of an authentic functional revolution: the cabins were no longer dark places to to sleep in but become spaces with a sea view. The transformation was radical and the hulls are now full of windows and not of portholes. If only the great visionary Jules Verne could see them…


The world of design has always been hanging in the balance between form and function, and the boat is probably the worst territory on which to seek the right compromise. With the deadly embrace of the word “innovation” which has become the unique key of judgment of each project, almost erasing the value of experience. The denial of the past and of legacies is a very contemporary sentiment. However, the sea has remained more or less the same for many, many, millennia. New Zealand has been populated by brave Polynesians by sea, with boats we wouldn't be able to navigate not even a mile from the beach. There are no huge differences between the round ship used by the Romans to bring wheat and obelisks from Egypt to Rome, the medieval Carrack and the caravels of Christopher Columbus. And even if you look at the galleons, the war gunboats, you perceive a slow evolution: the fear of getting out of what was sailing with reasonable safety played a fundamental role.


Over the past ten, fifteen years, the drive towards innovation has been very beneficial. Not only a matter of renewing the aesthetic and functional codes but also of rediscovering old needs. A concrete example? The need to consume less diesel has made it possible to “rediscover” the displacement and slow hulls.

The world of design associated with boating is abuzz and soon there will be new mature products, practicing the magical compromise between form and function, the root of every architectural manual from Vitruvius onwards. The boat, even if it has no cabin, is a place to live, where ergonomics and usability remain fundamental drivers.