Chatting about yacht design with Martina and Bernardo Zuccon is a bit like throwing open a window on to a world in which architecture, culture, eclecticism, innovation and yachting interweave to produce a philosophy centred around human well-being. It also involves going back through the entire history of modern architecture to better contextualise their inspirations, visions and projects.
“Architecture is the will of an age conceived in spatial terms” is a Mies Van Der Rohe quote that Bernardo has taken as his mantra and deems the secret of their success. “If you look closely at the history of architecture, most of the movements are linked to historic facts,” he explains. “That synergy between historic, human and cultural aspects is the starting point for our approach to design”.
It is no coincidence either that Zuccon’s degree thesis was the design for a 40m boat to be used as a mobile architecture studio, the perfect synthesis of terrestrial architecture and yacht design. A boat with a structural skeleton that became the mask for the design and hid the germ of what would become the duo’s design philosophy. Essentially, it was their first manifesto but also something more: a Jerry Maguire style mission statement that takes form and function right back to their Bauhaus roots.
“Our first commission that was completely independent of Mum and Dad’s work (Gianni Zuccon and Paola Galeazzi, ed.’s note) was for several Ferretti yachts. We were tasked with conservatively refreshing a range by consolidating its functional aspect,» explained Martina. However, the typological, cultural and architectural about-face that has so heavily influenced the studio’s output in recent years came when brother and sister moved to Sanlorenzo. “We joined Sanlorenzo to redesign its planing range,” Bernardo tells us. “When we arrived, we started approaching the project in the same way as we had with Ferretti. Until then, no one had alerted us to the fact that our experience might be useful in proposing something novel. But then we started talking about asymmetry and that instantly changed everything. We realised that there was huge unexplored territory in the nautical world and that we could finally give full vent to our ideas”. Hence their background in the history of architecture and all they learned from their parents came into play and turned their modus operandi into a revolution of sorts. “Much of our research references the Raumplan (coined by Adolf Loos who used different room heights to suite the function of the spaces, ed.’s note) and the theories of the modern movement,” explains Bernardo. “It is the type of typological research that hasn’t been explored very much so far in the nautical world”. The result is there for all to see. The SDs and the SLs are both manifesto and programme. Very different from each other but each brimming with novelty. «Bringing asymmetry aboard a boat where symmetrical rigor previously always dominated is a way of transforming life aboard into a sensory experience,” continues Bernardo. «On the symmetrical axis, the distance from the sea is usually the same on both sides of the boat, while aboard the asymmetric SL, it is different on starboard and port sides. And that is what makes this research journey so fascinating. So both the SX and the SL offer something new, but the difference is that the SX anticipates the demands of the market while the SL surprises with something completely unexpected,” he concludes. In part because from the outside, there is no hint of anything amiss. According to the Zuccons, the boat has just one public dimension: the exterior which must not be a manifesto. The interior, on the other hand, is a private ‘container’ into which the owner pours their intimacy.
While the SL’s forms surprise and delight, the SD does likewise with its high tech classicism. This is a yacht for romantic owners in which several stylistic languages have been woven seamlessly together to produce a structure that really is the star, very much as happened with past icons of the likes of the Baglietto Ischia. «On the one hand, we turn everything on its head with asymmetry while on the other we are custodians of the nostalgia and romanticism of the yachting of a bygone era. So we never get bored!” laughs Martina.
The fusion of the SD and SL has produced the new XSpace in which navetta-style comfort and romanticism of the navettas has been married with explorer masculinity. «It’s a design hybrid that creates a whole slew of opportunities rather than just turning design on its head”.
And then there are the Blue Games which standout from the crowd because of their extreme transformability and their superbly safe seakeeping. “They are the apotheosis of the typological revolution and are what I would consider the pinnacle of optimisation aboard. They are the kind of craft bought by mature owners with no interest in the public or social side of being an owner,” says Bernardo.
Another yacht that is genuine departure from the current orthodoxy which seeks to make the most of the available GT is a 75m designed by Bernardo for Perini’s Heritage line. Inspired by the kind of sailing language in which volumes are neither a priority or pivotal, it too breaks with market trends to introduce something entirely unexpected. The yacht remains a design for now but Bernardo is very attached to it as he penned it at a particular time in his life and would love to see it sail one day. However, the new project the studio is working on has a definite launch date for 2024. “It’s the first yacht I feel I can really use the world ‘revolution’ to describe,” a clearly thrilled Bernardo confides. Both its length and the yard building it are top secret for now. We can’t wait to find out more!