We interview Stefano Pastrovich; a young architect with various illustrious projects already under his belt and clear ideas on how a boat should be built.
It is one of those days when the skies could open at any minute, judging from the black clouds hanging over us, or perhaps an unexpected warmish sun could come out, as the horizon seems to be clearing up. On the other hand, those of you who know Liguria are well aware of how the weather in these parts can quickly change, often several times in the space of a few hours. We are in Bogliasco, where the Levante Riviera theoretically starts, yet only 20 minutes from the heart of Genoa. Heading up the Aurelia State Road, we drive along just a few metres and like magic find ourselves admiring a delightful sea view. This is the geomorphologic miracle of this land; it is harsh and hostile in parts yet rich in many others. A land of sailors, explorers and architects. The connection with Renzo Piano’s genius is by no means coincidental. Here we are in front of a delightful eighteenth century villa. This is where the architect Stefano Pastrovich has his business. We are welcomed first of all by the polite, smiling Silvia Grittani, irreplaceable personal assistant in charge of the firm’s PR and communications. After inviting us to make ourselves comfortable, she throws open the large windows so that we can take in the view. Breathtaking, there is no other word to describe it. Apart from anything else, we make the most of it to fill our lungs with some fresh air. It is not long before we realise we are in a unique location that seems almost suspended between the sky and sea. The perfect work place, we could say for someone who enjoys both sailing and flying, and we are not only referring figuratively to this man’s fertile creativity. “At the age of 10, I designed and built model gliders made to fly. And they did, how they flew!” Stefano Pastrovich begins to relate his career and life story. Born in Genoa in 1973, he graduated in architecture and has more than ten years experience in designing, construction and styling of motor and sailing yachts. In the early days, from 1996 to 2000, a prestigious collaboration with M. Francis Design Studio, led to the development of large motor-yachts, such as the 57 metre “SenseS” and the 70 metre “Katana”. At the same time, he developed his own projects like the MY LGB Le Gran Bleu, a 104-metre craft for a German client, and supervised its exterior styling, interior design and all construction details. Following this, from 2000 to 2004, he worked as chief designer for Wally, personally designing some of the boatyard’s treasures. Just a few details to illustrate some of the highlights of an extensive CV. But let’s pick up from where we left off . “My passion for the wind, and gliding did not end with designing models when I was a boy. At 18, I started to really get into gliders. Out of passion and the spirit of competition, I took part in numerous competitions. I treasured those experiences and can say that I know the wind pretty well.” It is no coincidence that some of his most illustrious custom designs such as the 42′ Sly Fun as well as the interior design for two Shipmans, the 63′ and 72′, were sailing yachts.
We talked to him to find out more.
Mr Pastrovich, if one were to describe you as a “stylistic innovator”, what would you say?
Quite simply that I do not see myself as such. Not if we are talking from a strictly aesthetic and formal point of view. In fact, I believe that shape and function should always go hand in hand. I know no other way of thinking and designing. That said the first step is of course to play around with lines and shapes. You should not be restricted by function at the outset. As the project gradually takes shape, however, you have to give it a reason for being. At this stage, an ongoing dialogue between shape and function begins: you sort out one to improve the other and vice versa. For example, with regards to the Sly 42′ project, it is undoubtedly innovative with for example, the replacement of the classic central table with side tables staggered in height on the exterior, bringing the advantage of freedom of movement on deck. This is the same for the interiors that are designed like a loft with the elimination of divided up cabins, to create the perfect convivial feel for when you have friends on board, while still being intimate and cosy for a couple.
What is your “modus operandi”?
In the beginning, I always design by hand. I start from the idea, the single inspiration. Whilst the very first step is clearly emotional, for example an inspiration from nature or an architectural detail, the next is to think of its function. You see absolute beauty for me does not exist. There is an “idea of beauty” that does not match the single experience while well-being is a decidedly more objective value. I regard a boat as beautiful when it has so many details that they don’t stand out. By details, I mean high-functionality features. At the design stage, the quest for the best details, using a series of scaled drawings and plans, is essential. I always use 3D models, that not only help you to see the future shape of the boat, but show all the real parts and in their real size. These models show everything: from the structures to the thickness of the wood, right up to the drawers, handles and everything else. It is an essential tool in designing because in this way you know exactly how to proceed with the work and you can show the client how it is progressing, as well as the many choices in materials, fabrics and so on. As far as the material is concerned, I must say that I love natural raw materials, often combined with more innovative ones like carbon fibre in particular, as well as fibreglass, perfect examples of the quest for lightness and practicality. Personally, I love the contact with the consistency of the surfaces. This is why I love going to choose the raw materials, fabrics and relative combinations to propose to the owner. I believe that feeling the weight of the materials is equally as important as staying in the office and designing. It is essential that the realistic and practical sense of things becomes a part of you. In short, I see the design as being inescapably linked to function and technology, that is, with everything that represents the realistic side of the object.
Why do you prefer to define yourself as an “architect” and not a “designer”?
A boat is the perfect combination of technical parts, design and mechanics: architecture is what links all these parts, or rather the rational combination of actions to improve our wellbeing. Design, on the other hand is generally a more emotional and direct activity, not necessarily aimed at helping you to live better. Often the designer is more like an artist than an architect, generally closer to the construction stage than the aesthetic one. I am an architect not a designer, although I cannot deny that there are good designers who know how to combine shape and function. I am completely on the side of those who do not want sailing to turn into an attractive fashion shop window offering trends that will be out of date within a year, but rather practical items especially made for sailing. For example, if we look at the Wally range – I am referring to the projects that I have actively taken part in – it can seem like a demonstration of futuristic design, but in reality, it is all down to engineering. Each line and measurement is based on technical performance.
In formal and functional terms, what inspires you?
Nature offers us the most evolved shapes in terms of survival and technical adaptation. If you think of a plant, the natural arrangement of the branches, the veins on the leaves, flowers and shapes of the petals, they are the perfect shapes to absorb light and water and to combat the wind. These are undisputable works of art! Certain natural shapes are perfect systems to ensure maximum performance with as little structure as possible. Another source of personal inspiration are antiques, they are like currents that transport the architecture of different historical eras, a source of equally stimulating models, precisely because they result from a perfect interpenetration of the architect’s and the manufacturer’s work. How would you define your personal style in the project? While being a lover of antiques, I do not favour an excessively classical style. The bottom line is that when you find yourself faced with a project, especially a custom one, it is essential to have a good rapport with the client. The first few times I meet a client, I try to get an understanding of what kind of person he/she is, how they feel, what they are looking for and also if we think in the same way. Reciprocal respect is a priority to the success of the product. I could not say that my style is unique. More than anything, I like the challenge and it could not be any other way venturing into custom projects. At times, I find myself starting from scratch, redoubling my efforts to produce the best result. Of course, satisfaction is in keeping with the amount of effort you put in. Furthermore, by nature I am one who prefers to dedicate myself to a limited number of things that truly satisfy and where I can leave my own mark.. One of the positive aspects of working on custom boats is precisely that one can create a boat that is both “beautiful” and “well-made” at the same time.
I personally monitor all my projects even in the boatyard. Familiarity with the construction language of a boatyard is fundamental to the overall success of a project, so that one can communicate effectively and efficiently.