Tommaso Spadolini, a naval architect and keen sailor, is the custodian of a tradition that he has been able to renew with fresh languages and designs with great strength of expression. He ranges from small motor tenders to sailing cruisers and large pleasure yachts
by Francesco Michienzi
In Italy, design, architecture and modern art have been evolving in tandem ever since the days of the Novecento, the artistic movement born in 1922 pioneered by artists such as Giò Ponti, Giovanni Muzio, Giuseppe De Finetti and Alberto Alpago Novello. A movement that involved and influenced all disciplines, establishing aesthetic and stylistic codes that made the language of the projects up to date and modern, but with eyes turned to the future.
In the world of shipbuilding, the most emblematic example of this cultural process is Pierluigi Spadolini, universally recognised as the master of masters. At Barche Magazine, we had the pleasure of talking to the heir of this great heritage of ideas and intuitions.
Tommaso Spadolini, an architect from Florence, the son of Pierluigi and the nephew of Giovanni, who has served as Prime Minister, a former journalist and editor in chief of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, has led his career surrounded by intellectual and cultural excellence.
Measuring up to two true monuments of Italian history can’t have been easy. Historically the relationship between father and son is often marked by very different visions of the future.
The parent’s role, as we know, is to educate, but it is often difficult to know when to stop. We met Tommaso Spadolini in a magical place where he has created his office, in the deconsecrated church of Santi Agostino e Cristina in Florence, and we asked him how it was to live with a surname like his: «I must say that Giovanni was a person who always gave me space, but my father didn’t want me to become involved in the shipbuilding business. Giovanni frequently came to my defence, telling his brother (daddy was older than Giovanni) to let me follow my own road. I am grateful to my uncle because I’ve had fun, and I believe I’ve also had a good professional career».
It wasn’t easy for the young Florentine architect to prove his worth, especially because of the psychological pressure exerted by his father: «No, never. Because my father never thought I would embark on this profession with such determination. When I grew and was successful, he surrendered and was a great help». Help of a contextual nature stemming from the constant thinking in the Spadolini offices on the nature of yachts.
This long relationship has gradually enabled Tommaso to create a successful dialogue between production and the market. Pleasure yachting is one of the most prolific fields for project research, with the possibilities still so wide that the role of the designer is not limited to being a mere stylist modifying an inventory that is tried and tested and fossilised.
Tommaso Spadolini drew Fortuna, the boat belonging to the King of Spain: 43 metres long, three turbine engines for a speed of approximately 75 knots. «The boat has reached 74.8 knots. It was a very special boat for which I had used a wind tunnel to develop her lines. I enjoy speed as much as anyone else, but at sea there are additional problems because water is a hard surface and when you start going beyond 30, 40 or 50 knots, if you do not have a good enough hull, it is difficult to hold the boat together, holding it together structurally isn’t easy».
The obvious question is how the world of boating has changed from Fortuna to today: «It’s mainly the client. Fortuna was a dream that I don’t think could happen again. Nowadays clients are much more demanding, legislation has changed, the size of interiors has changed, and modern boats have become much wider. The approach of ship owners has changed: nowadays they want comfort provided by height and the shape of the boat». Nowadays one needs to create a space which is both static and dynamic.
In other words, one that can be used in forms that are profoundly different from any other type of architectural creation. The terms of the problem must thus be acquired and understood, before even beginning to analyse them, in how they are different from their usual relationship. «It is not only a question of finding a solution for the distribution and functional organisation, of a flexible answer to the minimal available, but an interpretation that cleverly combines movement in all its infinite varieties (roll, pitch, oscillation), with the static needs of the owner».
As well as the King of Spain’s Fortuna, Tommaso Spadolini has created projects for shipyards that are part of the history of the Italian nautical history: Cantieri di Pisa, Canados, Barberis, Alalunga, Faeton, Baglietto, Codecasa, Rossinavi and Otam. More recently, also for the Turkish shipyard Sirena Marine and CCN a brand of Baglietto Group.
The boats which have given him the greatest satisfaction include Aslec, a 46-metre boat built by Rossinavi and launched in 2012: «It was the fourth boat I designed for the same owner, and today is definitely the boat I see copied most often. For me it is the best business card. Roberto Cavalli’s boat as well, with her widebody lines and large volumes and sailing at 26-27 knots, was quite a challenge in 2004. The 70-metre Numptia by Rossinavi was also interesting. I am now working on the development of two 85-metre yachts, one a vessel and the other a superyacht». All designers are characterised by their style: «Few lines, but essential ones. That was the school my father taught me. When today, 40 or 50 years later I see an Akhir, made up of only three beautiful clean lines, I realise how modern his approach still is».
Tommaso Spadolini is a sailor who mainly designs motor boats. «For me sailing boats are the soul of the regatta. I do not like catamarans as types of boat. Sailing is the true way to go to sea. The market is always dominated by motor boats, but if I could, I would still be designing sailing boats». We always ask ourselves how important it is to own a boat and be a sailor oneself in order to design a boat. «It is crucial. If you sail, you know what problems boats face. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues aren’t sailors».
As with all self-respecting designers, there have been some rather strange requests from owners: «I’ve even designed a place for a dog on a boat, or for a hairdresser for ladies. The only demand from the owner’s wife was space for her hairdresser. Another owner sent us to see Fonteverde and asked for a fountain on board with the same jet; he didn’t give up until we had produced a copy».
The first task of the designer is to understand the sea, so that the new challenge takes on the flavour of the dialogue and suggests to its users the manners of sojourn that combines holiday and sporting needs with full respect for the sea.