Learning from the yachting world

The Materia Xpert Series meeting for the Leisure and Hospitality theme was devoted to sailing, floating and drifting. Examples ranged from the luxury yachts of De Voogt Naval Architects to the return of pure sailing enjoyment by Huibert Groenendijk and the development of the floating neighbourhood in IJburg by Ton van Manen of Monteflor.

Some of the core issues in designing a yacht are practicalities one: hiding a huge amount of installation, balancing the ship and using lightweight materials for making yachts faster. But in particular shaping the luxury of the yacht is important. The famous Venus yacht, designed by Philippe Starck, is mainly devoted to removing details, which is a very difficult task for a yacht that contains many necessary objects and features that are often in view and require easy access.

A surprising development was the huge amount of glass in the concept-yacht Royale, a fictional design for the new Dutch royals, Willem-Alexander and Maxima. The vessel was conceived with a huge glass strip that is both constructive and functional. The strip affords the best views and maximum light penetration.

Using historical examples, Huibert Groenendijk illustrated that the material use in boats reveals a huge level of ‘fakeness’. Traditional Dutch skûtsjes that were formerly of lacquered wood have blank wood panels on their stern to show the type of wood used. In fact, even on later steel ships, this part of the hull was painted on the metal with a wood print. The phenomenon of the sloop as a wooden clinker boat (that is, with overlapping hull planks) and finished with a sisal rope fender is not what it seems. The materials used are polyester and polypropylene, though these are finished with a wooden look.

The development of a range of water-villas on Amsterdam’s new IJburg development is linked to this story as the houses are a floating hybrid of boat and home. This is true of their construction, logistics solutions (all utilities are concealed in a concrete tube beneath the pontoon) and regulations. Construction took place in a dock. Because of the weight requirements the buildings are composed entirely of timber and the façades are plastic. If any of three connected houses are distorted by more than one degree, the whole block is brought into balance by air-filled floats placed under the houses.

All in all, the great quality that we find in all these projects is the enjoyment of, and on, the water. Nature, water, space, light, movement. All of these qualities are often considered luxuries or even status symbols. They are, in principle at least, also perfectly feasible additions to our own working and living environments.


Images courtesy of the speakers: De Voogt Naval, Huibert Groenendijk and Ton van Namen.