“The balance between form and function is the result of a magical combination from which an object that will remain over time is created”. This is how Mario Pedol summarizes his philosophy about design. In this article he reveals his secrets from twenty years of success of his prestigious studio in Milan.
“I crossed the Atlantic in ’81 with an Oyster 37’ designed by Holman and Pye. We covered three thousand seven hundred miles of open sea with just two hundred litres of freshwater …we were young!” but Mario Pedol’s challenge of a lifetime came to him thanks to an idea.
The great “Nauta” adventure started in September 1996: three youngsters at the Genoa Boat show with their first 54’. They were Mario Pedol, Enzo Moiso and Massimo Gino, brought together by their great love of sailing and an idea in common: a boat that was better than all the others.
The hull is beautiful and fast with extreme coherence on deck when manoeuvring and has a double cockpit: at stern the “operative” cockpit and at the centre one for the guests. An excellent internal layout that is bright and surprisingly practical, each and every detail well thought out.
Experience and determination are awarded immediately: two N54 footer’s were sold at the boat show, followed by a third and more important boat designs: the N65’ and the N70’.
In the early ‘90’s as the “clean hands” storm raged, a brusque manoeuvre allowed them to overcome the severe industry crisis; the production structure was sold and the three youngsters set up the design company “Nauta Yachts”, putting their name to unmistakable boat designs that bring satisfaction both during regattas and while cruising, working in collaboration with the best naval architects, from Bruce Farr to Reichel & Pough and Doug Peterson.
Nowadays, twenty-two years on, “Nauta Yachts” is also specialised in the design of motorboats, and offers across the board consulting: from brokerage to charter, to the second hand market. And all revolving around the boat owner.
Mario, you set sail as a boat designer in the Holman & Pye offices and that of Scott Kaufmann who was a pupil of Olin Stephen. A lot has changed in the design method since then. What has not changed at all?
There has been no change in the balance between form and function, the result of a magic combination through which we create an object that stays with us over time. It is that elegance that is so pleasing to the eye that moves with the years. This was the prerogative of both the offices where I started out. Another constant factor over time has been the “custom-design” aspect of the project. Because every boat project is the story of the relationship with its owner….who then becomes your friend. And when you share in the “creation” of a boat, “in-depth loops” are created from the general concept to the tiniest detail.
Can you recreate the atmosphere of Nauta’s early years by describing it as an important moment, one where you were on the same wavelength a boat owner and a naval architect?
One episode was the planning of the second “My Song” together with Pigi (Pier Luigi Loro Piana), a 70 foot nauta. In 1990, Pigi and I went to visit Farr in Annapolis, and after eight hours in flight spent perfecting the general layout, still tireless and full of enthusiasm, we dined in a restaurant discussing every detail. At midnight it was Farr who raised the white flag and exclaimed: “you are always talking about boats, even at dinner….enough! I am going to bed”.
Nowadays we have acquired specific knowledge for “in house” designing including the water lines, the rig and the appendages, and we interface with naval architects only at the final planning and implementation stage.
The “first” nautas (N54’, N56’ and N70’) instantly showed a precise idea of how the boat can be improved during navigation and not just be beautiful and fast. A “nauta concept” that allowed you to grow and overcome the rough waters of the early ‘90’s, and reach ambitious design goals. The nautas still preserve the charm of that “well balanced coherence” that made them stand out from the very start. Does your formula lie in good preliminary design together with the owner, or collaboration with the best naval architects?
Both. Working with the owner allows one to become passionate about the pleasure they get from the boat. I step into his shoes and I can imagine the kind of life on board he envisages and the use he will make of it. The formula of “open dialogue” with the best naval architects such as Scott Kaufmann, Bruce Farr, Reichel & Pough and Doug Peterson is equally interesting thanks to a reciprocal relationship of trust. Initially, we only covered the aesthetic-architectural part of the deck and interiors; working in a team with them gave us greater insight into the technical part of the hydrodynamic performance.But behind all this lies a love of the environment where these objects will find themselves moving…
Today, talking about dynamic architecture, is this magic balancing point between form and technique something you look for immediately in your design or does it develop as the project progresses?
The technical side is one of the fundamental ingredients in the project and is the one that has changed the most over time. The technology of composite materials, software and instruments for measuring performance, from the naval tanks to CFD (Computational fluid dynamics) means we can explore “n” alternatives before we launch the craft. And nowadays, as in the past, that magical balance is either there or it’s not.
Twenty-five years since the first boat, you haven’t lost the motivation that prompts you to take on difficult projects. Are you still searching for the perfect boat?
Thankfully there is no such thing as the perfect boat, otherwise, all the fun would have gone out of it. Every kind of boat carries its own charm and, from the sailing-yacht to the expedition-yacht or the fast-commuter, every boat brings with it a specific challenge; this is what motivates me.
The 70’ nauta “My Song III” surprised us more than the others. You gave it the nickname “Dr Cruiser & Mr Racer”; can you give us some thoughts on the development of this project?
My Song III is our most extreme cruise-racer. The third we have produced for the same owner, and with whom we have a longstanding friendship. Working with Pigi (Pier Luigi Loro Piana) is highly stimulating thanks to his desire to participate in the creative process; moreover it is highly “challenging” because of the goals set forth. He is an “exhausting” client from the design point of view, but equally passionate thanks to his great enthusiasm and pleasant character.
The owner wanted a fast boat, and with it came a very attractive one…how do you manage to combine beauty with speed?
Often clients come to us thanks to chance priorities in their way of thinking. In the case of Pigi, we share three key points: performance, appearance and practicality. The challenge was taken to the extreme by the transformability of the boat: from tranquil cruiser (so to speak) to top-level regatta. It is one of the few nautas that weighed less than expected when it was launched, only 29 tons for an 84 footer. We achieved this goal by designing the interiors in carbon fibre and with removable elements; Cuckson, the famous manufacturer from New Zealand contributed to achieving this result and the word “removable” is found at in numerous points in the construction contract specifications.
Among the nautas designed in collaboration with Reichel Pough is “All smoke”, the 78’ nauta that won in the Maxi Yacht category. Is this another award winning cruiser-racer?
“Allsmoke” is the younger sister of “MySong” thanks to its similar internal and deck layout, but compared to the length, its displacement is less extreme: it weights 34 tons and is six feet shorter. It is the classic cruiser-racer with conventional interiors; the furnishings are in teak and the bulkheads are sandwich.
It is a boat from 2004, and from a project point of view can be compared with the centurions from the late ‘90’s (Henry Wauqiez ed. note). It is the fourth in the fortunate series of the Reichel&Pough Nauta ’78, the first was “Farniente”. The owner of Allsmoke took it upon himself to create a cohesive, top-class regatta team and with the boat in good order, he obtained good results like the victory at the Maxi Yacht world championships at Porto Cervo (“overall” trophy at the Rolex Cup 2005; second place in the “Mini-Maxi” cat. at the Rolex Cup 2007).
“Acaja Cube”, the Nauta 80’ and Nauta 100’ “Farewell”, both designed in collaboration with Farr and produced by the South African boatyard Southern Wind, introduce a successful novelty…..
“Acaja Cube” introduced the “deckhouse” element into the Nauta Design cocktail. Managing to fit a deckhouse onto an 80 footer without being invasive is quite a challenge, especially from an aesthetic as well as an emotional point of view; indeed, it can be an important interruption both internally and on deck, and could be an obstacle to visibility towards bow. We harmonised this element with the boat’s general lines, obtaining good results including the layout of the interiors and deck. The owner’s cabin alone at bow offers the owner plenty of space and privacy. The wardroom is located behind it and is the centre of the boat, acting both as a gathering point for guests as well as the central point from where the passageways branch off; it is also an element of separation from the guest cabins at stern. The crew is isolated at the extreme stern, a tried and tested solution. This way the routes are more practical as well as being shorter. The engine room is located under the deckhouse, in the boat’s centre of gravity, a perfect solution for distributing the weight and reducing pitch.The raised deckhouse means we can create an enjoyable “living room” thanks to its height: a “collage” of successful recesses (prize for the MYDA design at the Seatec in Carrara for new crafts over 24m).
“Farewell” is the first SouthernWind 100’, requested by an owner who had appreciated “Acaja Cube”; his aim was to keep the positive aspects of the 80’ but with a more spacious lounge and with the addition of another guest’s cabin. One specific request was also to be able to enjoy the view while remaining comfortably seated inside the deck-saloon. This nauta was one of our greatest successes: ten boats have been ordered and we are now finishing off the seventh one.
Part of the nauta collection includes the very elegant “Kirribilli”, the sloop designed and created in complete harmony with its owner, Renzo Piano. Like in a never ending workshop…..
Renzo Piano, who knows plenty about workshops…. contacted us through his captain because he wanted to meet us, and we hit it off right from the start: after quarter of an hour we were already using the informal “tu” form of address. We were on the same level in terms of human relations. A leitmotif of the project was his lack of presumption that he knew how to do our job, while we would have been happy to second him in the design load. I greatly appreciated something in particular that he said: “I like your work because it gives off a feeling of calm”. In fact, it is not my style to look for excesses that are often just there for their own sake, and I think sharing this common nature was one of the reasons why he chose us as partner in the design of his boat.He is an incredibly intelligent person, and it was very stimulating and gratifying to spend time with him designing…..meeting us half way with similar points of view.
So will the “Kirribilli” always be a “laboratory boat”?
Yes, I think so unless Renzo Piano decides to build another one.
The nauta 105’ “Attimo” was produced by the French boatyard CMN (Constructions Mechaniques de Normandie) and is the first one with an aluminium hull. Is this an episode that left its “mark” on your design method?
“Attimo” was the first naval experience. The CMN boatyard builds 60-70m patrol motorboats with a naval organisation and mentality. A passionate experience for the level of interfacing requested in the design of what is practically a ship, and the initial reciprocal difficulty quickly ironed itself out, progressing smoothly throughout the construction. When you build a boat “well”, you then remain bound to a relationship that can be defined as friendship. The owner’s request was precise: a modern design that combined “practicality” of the interiors with “the emotion” of feeling like you were on a yacht and not at home. Today we are reliving this experience with the design of an “important” motor yacht, with a naval concept.
The 36 metre Caicco is quite a unique nauta….from the “Arabian Nights”. How have you interpreted the “nauta design” in a traditional Turkish boat?
The Caicco is well connected with the interiors of Attimo, because once again the owner requested a modern interior design but which evoked the “feeling” of tradition of the country this kind of boat comes from, Turkey. So we played around with the furnishing wood and colour of the fabrics, proposing a series of renderings with relative material samples. Merit for the end result must be shared with the female boat owner who knew how to pick from our proposals.
You have thought up the dreamboat owner’s cabin with a glass window that overlooks the boat’s wake. It seems like it was planned in order to spend a night watching the moon reflecting in the plankton….
Truly emotional! The owner showed us his initial layout with the large bed positioned under the windows looking onto a large anti-chamber. We moved the bed to a central position, turning it sternward and separated from the sleeping area by a low bookcase. We positioned the study and relaxation area to the sides.
The refitting of the high seas tugboat “Itasca” and the imposing “Explorer 60m” opened a new chapter for Nauta Yachts. They are motorboats with a naval origin that offer the charm of slow navigation with great autonomy. Is this to push on to the edge of the world?
Yes, certainly. They are for exploring the ends of the world and circumnavigating the globe in the tropics. Or both, one does not rule out the other.
The former tugboat “Itasca” sailed both in the Antarctic as well as through canals (Panama, ed. note), all the way to the Polynesian islands and New Zealand…..
On motorboats, the subject of “slowness” is becoming more and more popular as a new way to live the sea. Nowadays, the charm of great autonomy has its own value: being able to stay in the sea for long periods of time without resupplying, and relying on nautical skills that allow you to face difficult seas, is becoming more popular amongst the “motorists”. This happens because it calls into play environmental compatibility and noise reduction on board, improving one’s relationship with the sea.
One of the future projects includes Nauta 122, in collaboration with the Argentinian Xavier Soto Acebal. The initial designs are surprising because of the extreme minimalism of the lines and the formal simplification. In one of your definitions, you claimed that “searching for the essence of a design means finding simplicity” Is less or more?
In a boatyard in Auckland, we found the words: “simplicity is the essence of good design” written on the wall, so we made it our own. It is a philosophy that is applied both in the form and function. A boat is an object that encompasses numerous complexities both in order to sail and to live on at sea. In the formal project, one generally manages to achieve the best solutions via “good recesses” that are simple by definition. But when one manages to “remove” a superfluous detail, possibly simplifying it in a single stroke, then occasionally one exclaims: “Eureka…that’s it!” From a practical point of view, removing something means making the boat lighter, reducing maintenance and resolving a possible breakdown in advance.
The nauta 44 metre, presently at the design stage, is one hundred percent Nauta Design, which handled the water lines, appendages and rig. It attracts attention with its decisive extension to the classic yacht’s elegant lines. Are you inspired by tradition when launching modern elegance?
The ancient world is fascinating and produced beautiful boats. Just look at the boats designed in the 1900’s and we can find designers like Fife and Herreshoff who created incredibly elegant forms. Our intention is to relive those forms without copying them, simply offering ideas like the “bevelled stern” from the 1930s’.
You mentioned that one of the Nautas of the future is a 50-60 metre sloop with lines that preserve the philosophy of the classic Nautas. Can you give us a preview?
I make a wish for something completely new. We have the gift of being able to find the “magical balance” of the nauta-concept even on an excessive scale.
The “Toy Marine” Nauta sees the beginning of the design a range of motorboats that remind us of the “Maine lobster” style. Are these motorboats for those who love sailing?
Our relationship with motorboats was founded five years ago with the first “Toys”, from 36’ to 51’, to the 68’ and then the 110’. Aldo Tomasina entrusted us with the job of refitting the American “lobster-boats” with a modern twist with bow that flares outward as it drops down to the water. Once again we reconciled the reconcilability in the recovery of traditional shapes with the emotion of modernity. If we consider the vast open spaces on the early Bagliettos and then the small open spaces at the back of today’s planing boats….it is clear that the market has moved towards an increase in internal “lounge space”, sacrificing external space. But a well thought out deck can be equally as attractive as a large lounge. The main aim of these objects is “life in the open-air” during the summer months and we have focused the project on the “internal-external” relationship, creating vast “verandas” between the two areas. It is a whole new world that appeals to me….