Emerging young talents with clear ideas, Andrea Agrusta heads a team of designers that is making a name for itself thanks to its originality, reasoning and passion. Innovation is key
by Luca Sordelli photo by Andrea Muscatello
Clear ideas. Andrea Agrusta welcomes me to his studio in central Trieste and overwhelms me with words. In fact, I’m welcomed by eight people. They’re all young, with an average age of 31, and come from all over Italy, as well as from Croatia. Young people with a great passion for what they do, full of get-up-and-go. Their designs range from large yachts, including the new Ilumen from Dominator, which have amazed everyone over recent seasons, to all sorts of smaller boats, including sailing boats, as well as touching upon small submarines and houseboats.
What is the best word to describe NavalHead? Innovation, says Andrea. «This is the concept that all our work is based around. But it’s not simply a question of wanting to be ‘ahead of the field’ with our designs, our lines, forms or technical solutions. It also regards our approach and our working method».
Andrea founded NavalHead in 2010 and a noticeable team atmosphere has developed around him. As well as technical ability, all those who join have to know how to sail and have experience of the sea. «We want to break the mould», continues Andrea. «We’re a design studio, and that primarily means order, precision, reliability and engineering, but we try to combine all this with a good dose of creativity. This isn’t easy, given that we’re dealing with highly complex objects. We’re required to design ‘beauty’ and cater to owners’ and clients’ wishes».
And so you need to invent new ways and explore untrodden ground. «Yes, absolutely. When telling people about how we work, I like to emphasise that we start every morning here at the studio with a 15-minute brainstorming session, with no agenda. We share ideas, inspirations and dreams. Our thoughts from the night. I always say that our aim here is to create the boat of the future».
That sounds great. But it must also be very demanding. «We want to offer new ideas in every aspect of boat design, including structural solutions, for the materials and the hulls. We do a lot of work on hydrodynamics. And we’re not afraid of being a bit daring and presenting new solutions to our clients. While design has evolved a lot over recent years, technical yacht design is very structured and still tied to old methods».
It’s easy to make a lot of allowances for such a desire to invent things. You’re also very young… «We’re young. But we’re very experienced. I’ve been doing this job for thirteen years, and I’ve designed sailing and motor boats, large and small. I’ve worked as an external studio, but also within yards themselves, both small and large, such as Fincantieri. Experiences like these make you grow a lot. If we see that a client has a few concerns about a ‘strange’ idea, we try it out in the tank and if something goes wrong we cover the costs of the trial, the model and the test. We like to convey our passion. We really believe in what we do and this is obvious, people can see it».
At this point, the key question is one that comes naturally. What will this boat of the future be like? What are the main concepts behind its design? «It has to be truly liveable. It has to sail well and be eco-friendly. But these are three concepts that need to be explained in depth…». Go ahead. «Firstly, it should be remembered that our primary objective is that the owner is comfortable on board. They’re used to very high standards in their everyday life and we need to be able to recreate them. However, boats are made for sailing. They have to be real boats. They can’t be floating villas, which are just too heavy, with excessively solid bows. It may seem an unsolvable contradiction, but if you can start out with a technical design that adopts a global approach from the beginning, then you can do it. The client’s wishes are obvious from the outset, you impose some limits, and from then on everything is conceived and designed on that basis».
There is still the issue of the eco-friendly boat. It often sounds a lot more like a marketing message than a real objective. «You should be aware that it’s not just a question of using an electric motor. The problem is much broader. It’s not the fuel that matters, but the ability to create a yacht with energy costs that are as low as possible. We work on everything: weight, shape, propulsion, external and internal lines. On every single screw. Going back to what we were saying earlier, it needs to be designed with this in mind from the very outset».
But do owners understand and appreciate all this? «We have to work on it, patiently. But when they rediscover the beauty of sailing, then they become excited about it».
A ritual question: we know that every boat represents a “piece of its designer’s heart”. If you had to choose, is there one you’re particularly fond of? «One that I remember very fondly is the Maxi Dolphin 51 Power, built when I still worked at Studio Starkel. I put these concepts into practice for the first time in this limited-edition motor boat. It was very light, one of the first with IPS, with two 435-hp engines and a speed of 37 knots. It was in 2005 and our direct competitor had to fit two in-line 1,100-hp engines to achieve the same speed. We were even too modern. This was still the era of yachting excess, when very few people thought about saving on horsepower and litres per hour. In fact, some owners asked us how it would work with such low power».
This is a period of major growth for you. You’re working on a lot of projects. «Yes, starting with Ilumen. We’ll shortly be launching Zalanka and Cadet V, which have the same shape but a very different philosophy behind them and a different propulsion system, one with a Reintjes pod drive system and the other with in-line transmissions. We’re also working on a 32-metre and a 38-metre fibreglass yacht. What’s more, we have a metal 38-metre yacht and a 33-feet craft for a Slovenian owner. Aside from traditional boats, we’re designing a five-man leisure submersible at an affordable price for holiday resorts and, lastly, we have a major commission for 168 houseboats from the Venetian lagoon. However, in this case too they’re not just floating houses, but catamarans that can actually sail. They’re 11.5 metres long by 6.5 metres wide, assigned to C category».
(Andrea Agrusta – Navalhead – Giugno 2018)