Going With the Flow | Showboats

Going With the Flow
Mega yacht designers are hard at work simplifying the complexities of circulation throughout the vessel.

8201816Steven G leans into the gentle motion of the yacht. His elbows rest against the rail. “Could there have been a more perfect day,” he wonders. As if on cue, a midnight breeze plays across his chest. “Perhaps the crew arranged for this sea-borne caress, along with everything else: the discrete attentiveness to his wheelchair-bound guest, his super clean stateroom, caricature drawing lessons for the kids. As though reading Steven’s thoughts, his friend Janice R says “How did the crew figure out how to make a path of moonlight over the water just for us?”

But then the magic begins to fade! Here’s why. Steven would like to celebrate the beauty of it all with a beer. Janice would like to join him, but with another one of those blueberry margaritas. This calls for a decision not easily made. Steven can easily get the beer from the mini-bar. But they’ll have to press “Service” on the console to obtain the margarita. A crew member will cheerfully deliver it on a silver tray. But that would involve waking her up. It would involve a third person, no matter how pleasant. Now let’s leave this endangered tryst to consider the design ramifications.

The great luxury of privacy and the great luxury of service: how do leading interior designers of mega- yachts help us navigate gracefully around what seems to be two mutually exclusive, competing requirements? How does technology play a role? What can be learned from other structures: from modern hotels and cruise ships to relatively ancient Victorian piles with their armies of live-in help? How to choreograph the endless comings and goings on board; the exits and entrances, the dreamy flow for some and the precision drill for others: the slow migration of guests from saloon to dining room, for example, concurrent with the rapid loading of provisions from dockside to galley. [expand]

“You don’t want staff milling about to offer you a Kleenex or making Origami with the toilet paper. But it’s awfully nice to be handed snorkel and flippers on the beach platform, and a towel when you come out,” says megayacht designer Carl Pickering of Lazzarini Pickering Architetti in Rome. “With twelve guests and thirteen crew members you can easily feel trapped with everyone’s movement monitored like a high security jail. How I would hate to hear a walkie talkie squawking about how ‘Mr. Pickering’s gone for swim.’”

Pickering recalls how pre-existing staircases on the 52 meter Sai Ram made for some complex crew paths. His firm’s latest project, however, the 50 meter Regina D’Italia for Stefano Gabbana, represents the ideal scheme for controlling traffic between crew and client. A simple stairs for crew runs four floors from lower deck to sundeck right behind the owner’s. Food lifts and laundry lifts are likewise synced up in one centralized, vertical area. If the crew needs to come out to the corridor there’s a connecting door; the laundry is right behind the guest staterooms. As in Lazzarini Pickering-designed hotels and restaurants, “Now instead of ‘back of house’ as they say in the States, you have ‘back of boat.’ In either case, we try to eliminate every unnecessary movement; to make a functioning machine invisible to guests. ”

The 67.75 meter Archimedes by designer John Munford sets another high standard for traffic control. From its port side, crew can board a special supply deck at its lowest level. This crew-specific deck affords access to full under deck storage, supplies and crew mess. It also enables them to move from one end of the yacht to the other without bumping into a single guest. Inside, Munford recommends what he calls a series of “airlocks” between crew and owners which are the pantries. “Let’s say you have a bar on the bridge deck. Ideally, that bar would have direct access to a pantry and that that pantry would connect to stairs leading directly to the rest of the supply system. Likewise, in the dining room you have a galley on the same level, and a pantry between them, or on larger boats, a double pantry. The small one gets closed off after a while, while the larger one stays open for a help yourself type guest area.

Munford recalls how much technology has decreased the need for help. “In the old British houses, they had secret passageways where staff could pop out at various places. On the old steam and sailing  yachts, if the captain needed to call a member of the crew, he had to have a runner for the purpose. It used to take twenty-eight sailors just to put on the main halyards. Today, in the case of day charters, an external crew can do the cleaning with just a handful staying overnight.” Less crew, however, doesn’t mean less planning. In fact, it means more. As crew decreases in size due to miniaturized electronics and hydraulic lifts, expectations and options increase in inverse proportion. For example, can a crew member come right away to load the camera on the submersible? The division between crew and client is a precise calculus; though there’s always a certain pressure to throw a designer off the mark. “Especially when designers get to the shipyards,” says Munford, “The yards are inevitably going to want more technical space – usually at the expense of the crew.”

Architect Martin Francis is known in part for his high-speed, jet-like motor yachts: the 175 meter M/Y Sultan, the 118 meter Yacht A (in collaboration with product designer Philippe Patrick Starck), as well as the classic 75 meter Eco. But he has also consulted extensively on the design of Solstice, the first of a new line of Celebrity cruise ships. It’s from these behemoths that Francis feels M/Y designers could learn a lot about the proper choreography of passengers and crew. The sheer complexity and scale of the 122,000 ton, 15 deck Solstice means very little can be left to chance. It’s got to flow. Imagine 3,000 guests migrating from dinner to the casinos, to the theatre, the martini bar, all while the galley crew carves ice kangaroos on deck.  Regrettably, says Martin, M/Y designers generally ignore lessons learned from the burgeoning cruise industry.  They’re so “convinced that cruise ships are junk designed for geriatrics. The average age of a Celebrity guest is actually about 45.”

Which brings us full circle to Steven G and his friend Janice R, both a youthful 45. They’re still in a quandary about hitting the Service button. How not to break the mood? How to balance privacy and service while leaving intact the moonlit path over the water so thoughtfully set out by the staff before turning in? Then suddenly it dawns on Steven: the second pantry, that very second “airlock” of a pantry John Munford included in his very first sketches. It’s open all night, fully stocked with beer along with rows of frozen margaritas. “Janice, my dear, we’re in luck!” [/expand]