We met Bernardo and Martina Zuccon, Zuccon International Project: this duo are a perfect example of how to transform ideas into something tangible. Different yet complementary, these talented young architects have already demonstrated their prowess with a number of successful projects
by Francesco Michienzi – photo by Andrea Muscatello
Humans and their relationship with things and the environment is the central issue. Anyone working in architecture and design has to explore this topic in depth. Meanwhile, boat designers are faced with an even more complex task. Knowledge, study, an ability to analyse things, ideas and a great cultural background – which is not something that comes about by chance – are all needed in order to do so successfully. Boat design is the result of painstaking work requiring a special skill set that has to be cultivated like a plant that is cared for lovingly and consistently. It requires patience and knowledge generously handed down by others.
Zuccon International Project is like a large garden where the plants have found their ideal habitat and have grown from small seeds into majestic trees. We met Martina and Bernardo, two sides of the same coin. Together with their father, they play the leading role at Zuccon International Project, the firm founded by Gianni Zuccon and Paola Galeazzi in 1972.
Bernardo tells us: «The primary role of architecture is enabling people to live better. We need to break away from the concept of style, taste, luxury, from all these ephemeral terms, which seemingly represent everything that revolves around a vessel. I like to think of the boat as a place rather than an object. Experimentation, research and a pinch of courage. Leonard Cohen sang ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ In our job it’s fundamental to have the ability to explore complex areas such as the nautical industry, where the cracks could also offer the chance to create new opportunities. According to Buddhism, every problem is a potential opportunity, so it’s better to face problems and try and find solutions, because those solutions will lead to real opportunities and this is the aspect of design we really have to grasp with both hands».
Zuccon International Project has worked on this basis for years, throughout every phase of the design process. It represents a progressive convergence towards greater and greater study and attention to detail, in keeping with the requirements of the client and the boat and a meticulous analysis of the problems and the strategies for solving them. Ideas are set down on paper, take shape within the project and are transformed into reality.
The Rome-based architecture firm is like a great Renaissance forge that merges the expertise of the masters with the talent of the young students. It conveys a strong desire to explore untrodden paths. This yearning has fuelled new motivation, leading to the partnerships with the Sanlorenzo and Perini Navi yards.
We ask Bernardo how his work at the firm fits in with what Martina does.«This is a nice story and I find it fascinating, because it makes you realise how human nature, the concept of genetics and DNA are sometimes extremely coherent. This firm was built upon the principle of the perfect balance between our mother and father. He stopped where she started and vice versa. The synergy between them was so strong that they were able to create a machine that ran perfectly. My father tends towards the same sphere as me, preferring the concept of the mega-project, creation and stylistic definition. Dad is very good at telling the story of a project that will go on to be developed, while my mother used to turn the idea into something tangible. This is exactly what happens between me and Martina. I start telling a story to Martina, she looks at me and says not to worry. Then we put it down onto paper together. I couldn’t do this job today without my sister. I know that my competence, my professionalism, my approach and my design knowledge would be much weaker were it not for Martina and I believe that this synergy is exactly the same as the synergy that existed between our parents. This is why I like to say that the DNA concept is sometimes extremely coherent with itself».
We ask Martina the same question, which causes her pragmatic feminine side to emerge. «Bernardo and I have very different personalities, so discussions between us have always been on the agenda ever since we were young, with me as the eldest and him a boy, although the age difference is no longer apparent today. There’s no competition between us because we have very different characteristics. He works on some parts, I work on others. He is expansive, I’m more reserved and less inclined to stand out. We have a great balance in place in our firm. He deals with everything involving the exteriors. He likes working on the preliminary phase, coordinating the team that works on the initial part, while I cover the passage between the preliminary aspects and all the information needed to build the boat, such as the mathematical models for the cutters, the boat structure, the general plans and the volumes. I always try to find a different solution in terms of the layout».
Martina continues:«The thing I find most satisfying about my work is tackling different themes and design issues every time. Our job is not a repetitive one. Even if you always make the same boat in its various versions, you find yourself faced with new scenarios every time. I like doing everything, I like having control over the entire design process and having new stimulation every time».
We asked Martina to tell us about the design experiences that have been most significant to her. «Designing the Ferretti 510. I worked on this boat just a few months after I started out in this profession, back in 2005. It was the first model in which the layout and organisational arrangement adopted the concept of walking on the main deck, lowering it onto the bed in the central cabin. Thirteen years ago, having the master cabin in the centre of a 50’ boat was not standard practice like today. Professionally speaking, this was a challenge that I overcame. Interlocking volumes were certainly my first real and important approach».
Meanwhile, the design of the asymmetrical Sanlorenzo 102 was very strong from an emotional point of view. «We went to see the 102 and I have to say that it’s more exciting to see the boats you have spent hours working upon. I felt very emotional when we saw the assembly between the superstructure and the deck. We feel a bit like it’s our boat. It’s always a great satisfaction to see the finished product. After talking about it for two years, producing renderings, images, drawings and sketches, you finally see the product and you say so it’s real, we can see it, that’s the biggest satisfaction and the most emotional aspect».
For Bernardo too, the Sanlorenzo 102 is a project that produces particularly intense emotions. «This boat is the perfect interpretation of our desire for innovation and exploring certain areas as yet not fully explored. It’s not the first time that work has been done on an asymmetrical concept in the world of design. Nature itself is asymmetrical, even the human body is asymmetrical. We are talking about archetypal elements. What we have translated in the concept of asymmetry is the subject of typological hybridisation. Late 19th-century construction saw the development of different types of homes – courtyard homes, patio homes, tower homes – or rather different versions of living potential within a domestic environment in which the environments are the same, but the structure of the home changes to offer different functional scenarios despite sharing the same objective, that is to say creating the best possible living space for people. The concept of asymmetry means that the boat environment is not completely distorted and maintains a good link with all of that romantic and traditionalist aspect of the world of boat owners, while seeking to shift viewpoints and introduce new interpretations».
(Zuccon International Project, form and function in the yacht design – Settembre 2018)