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2023-02-06 10:59




INTERVIEW Patricia Urquiola by Gigi Radice

by Gigi Radice

«Transformability is the key to the best use of each area that could fulfill various functions during the day», Urquiola says. The sea is doubtlessly a great source of inspiration even for the interiors of the yacht where materials, shapes and colors should evoke the marine world and create a flowing and elegant space full of natural tints. «On board ambients and furnishings must be perceived as always in motion», the Spanish designer states.



Patricia Urquiola is one of the worldwide famous designers, she has collaborated with the greatest architects in the world, from Achille Castiglioni to Vico Magistretti and she has projected very innovative items for the greatest brands, from Cassina’s Sengu collection to Hotel Ca’ di Dio in Venice. She loves projects that start from conversations, when looking for a change, sharing with entrepreneurs and joining forces with them. She thinks that designers can break prejudices because architecture faces most of real necessities.


The design of a yacht has different needs even with respect to the interior of a house or a more canonical architectural space. You have to face the complexity of the technical details and follow binding regulations. Furthermore, boating is a world historically linked to tradition: a stimulating challenge for a very innovative designer. What are the differences in the conception, design and implementation between interior design «on land» and its applications on a boat?

They are two completely different experiences of living spaces. We can say that boats are be coming more and more floating hotels. From my point of view as an architect there are some similarities. In both areas there is a large study of the division of spaces and custom furniture is often designed. But, compared to the residential aspect, when designing a boat, one must keep in mind the constant movement and the relationship with the environment which is very different to a house or a hotel. And this is also the beauty of designing a ‘houseboat’.

How can respect for rules and regulations be reconciled with creativity and originality?

Having to face the complexity of technical details and follow binding regulations was what made the project more challenging. We were pushed to search for creative and original solutions, all united by the concept of transformability, to make the best use out of each area that could fulfill various functions during the day. Spaces and furnishings are perceived as always in motion: a table hidden in a bench, a living room that is transformed, an outdoor space that becomes wider, the walls that move.

A key aspect was working with companies of excellence to create unique custom furnishings that respond to the design needs, but also to the technical ones of boating. Boating is a sector that follows very precise design rules. It took some time for me to convince myself to design the interiors of a yacht because I wanted to be prepared. Consequently, the common thread that I strongly wanted for the design was the continuous contact with the outside during navigation and the possibility of «bringing» the sea inside through the choice of materials and colors. I also loved thinking about new needs in terms of space.


In 2019 you designed the interiors of the SD96 for the Sanlorenzo shipyard, bringing on board some concepts such as transformability and functionality of the spaces without neglecting elegance, attention to detail and formal rigor. Do you think these concepts are still relevant three years after your first intervention in the interior design of a boat?

Transformability is the common challenge of my projects. It was central with the SD96 and it is still a topic that we explored for the new SD90. Here the main lounge and the sitting area on the upper deck are easily converted into dining areas, with larger and more comfortable tables, while the downstairs VIP cabin can be completely transformed from a bedroom to a guest lounge. I believe there has been a natural evolution in the approach to boating. I learned to adapt to the nautical scale and to interpret the livability of spaces. On board the choice of materials and finishes is designed to give a constant feeling of welcome, extreme comfort, softness and delicacy. All materials embrace the guest in the unique experience of navigation.


The main lounge and the sitting area on the upper deck (previous pages) of Sanlorenzo SD96 are easily converted into dining areas, with larger and more comfortable tables. «My idea was to eliminate all the obstructions between interiors and exteriors. All materials used indoors remind the movements of water at the exterior, either by color of form», Urquiola says.


On board the choice of materials and finishes is designed to give a constant feeling of welcome, 91 extreme comfort, softness and delicacy

On board, internal and external spaces must coexist with volumes that have a precise functionality and are in close relationship with the sea. How do you manage to keep all these elements together without sacrificing some of them?

Our starting point for this collaboration was doubtlessly the sea, a great source of inspiration for the whole development of the concept and therefore the interior of the yacht. The materials, shapes and colors evoke the marine world, creating a flowing and elegant space full of natural colors. My idea was to eliminate all the obstructions between interiors and exteriors: all indoor spaces are in constant relation with the water, the sea is the absolute protagonist. All materials used indoors remind the movements of water at the exterior, either by color of form. The interiors follow the criteria of fluidity. I wanted to develop soft spaces that define the different functions and create continuity between the decks. A continuity that is em- phasized by the use of the floor finish - a woven pattern - but also in the ceilings, where the cimento® is used inside and out. I like the idea of trying to open an environment towards the sea and to let everything out there enter internally: the sea enters, and becomes even more a reality. Because for me the boat is not a villa by the sea, but a place where dialogue is created inside out.


Designing boats of this size and for this type of client can be the guarantee to work with great freedom but, at the same time, the needs of a boat impose limits determined by the needs of navigation and the design of the water lines. What is the relationship between the nautical project of the exterior designer and the interior designer? How are the different needs addressed?
A fundamental role is played by the flooring that creates continuity between the interior and exterior spaces. A pleasant sensation when walking is crucial, as movements on the boat are barefoot.


How important is the name and fame in choosing a designer?

Best in its field, Sanlorenzo has in fact involved such noteworthy names as Dordoni Architetti, Antonio Citterio, Patricia Viel and Piero Lissoni, in the interior design of yachts, thanks to which it has added new visions allowing it to rethink the concept of space on board through innovations and new stylistic features.

On the other hand, Massimo Perotti, chairman of Sanlorenzo, chose to work with me because he wanted to add a more feminine touch to the interiors, something which until now had been foreign to the nautical world. Thanks to the ability to combine beauty and comfort, all done with a touch of irony and almost poetic sensitivity, with love for all that is local and a great respect for the hard work of the artisans, I believe we have achieved great work. Since the beginning of the collaboration on the SD family, the whole team has been receptive to my contribution as a designer outside the nautical world, and with a very open dialogue it has been possible to make several changes over the years.


There are not only nautical needs on board. New technologies and sustainability, environmental and ethics, require and will impose in the near future, and increasingly, compliance with new and increasingly binding rules. How do you think is it possible to intervene in the design without disregarding what are becoming indispensable necessities?

They gave me great freedom and with the various projects I gradually deepened the themes of sustainability and transforming spaces. The SD90 is certainly the most innovative yacht, but we have continued the same story of the family feeling, which began with the SD96 and the SD118. And of course the research theme remained central throughout the design process. In the design of SD90 great care was taken in the research and use of raw materials from alternative sources, with a view to the circularity of the materials. The finishes used inside the yacht - such as the wall paneling covered with Paper Factor in ribbed recycled paper and the sustainable terrazzo used in the bathrooms are carefully selected to ensure a lower environmental impact of the entire product.


Compulsory innovation and comfort prospects: is this the challenge that awaits designers in the near future and not just in the nautical sector?

For a designer developing a new product today means taking into account a wide range of factors. First of all, technologies are in continuous and rapid advancement. There is also the need to follow the increasingly evolving requests of customers, where refined aesthetics is accompanied by the need for a high degree of customization. Research on materials is also assuming increasing importance, which must ensure performance, durability and simultaneously respecting the environment, without forgetting the economic factor. The designer must combine these objectives with a careful observation to the market trend, especially in relation to the materials available and according to the recent difficulties in finding certain raw materials. Technological advances have made it possible to recycle waste material, which can then be transformed into something useful and precious through the hands of artisans. It is a new idea of beauty generated by waste. I like the idea that in some time maybe we will only have recycled items.


On board Sanlorenzo SD96 the downstairs VIP cabin can be completely transformed from a bedroom into a guest lounge. «There has been a natural evolution in the approach to boating and I learned to adapt to the nautical scale and to interpret the livability of spaces», Patricia Urquiola states. Previous pages: the SD96 main deck lounge.

In what way from the design point of view?

Design must open up more and more to other conversations and disciplines. We need to design in terms of upcycling, we need to enhance the beauty of regeneration. A designer today must put his attention to the durability not only of objects, but also of projects; we have to use and interpret the materials in a better way, having a clear concept of circularity in mind. Working with Cassina and many other companies that are doing great research, like Andreu World, Haworth and GAN rugs, made clear how important circularity is for the future of design. For this we have to learn to design from an opposite perspective: we have to think about the end of the product’s life already when beginning with the project, reflecting on how the product can be disassembled at the end of its life cycle, how it can be reused. Thinking about its footprint.


The market today offers new materials thanks to the research and development of new technologies. How do these factors influence the creativity of designers? Do they represent a brake or a stimulus?

For us as a studio the continuous research approach focused on the sustainability of materials and manufacturing companies is always a moment of experimentation with new uses of circular materials. I think this use of materials that convey a new aesthetic, a circular beauty, is innovative. We wanted to give a strong message in boating. The company has introduced an innovative hybrid engine that is a small revolution for the sector. But we wanted this approach to be naturally reflected in the interior design.
For example, the recycled paper of the boiserie is enhanced by the almost marble finish. Or the bioglass panel of the main living room has a very beautiful texture and gives a feeling of depth to the room. On the floor we find the teak which is all FSC certified and forms a very interesting intertwined ground pattern. The fabrics chosen are all in recycled and recyclable fiber and the carpets are mainly in linen and natural fibers from the places of production.


Patricia Urquiola, how do you imagine your ideal boat?
The ideal boat should be thought of as your home, tailored to your needs, with maximum flexibility, many areas that can have multiple functions, lighten all the materials, smooth the corners and create a relationship that is as direct as possible with the water, so that the boat merges with the sea. You should integrate and not isolate yourself from the outside, achieving greater harmony. For the future, I am very interested in reducing weights and therefore in consumption, new types of engines and the evolution of hulls.