Filippo Salvetti has a very interesting approach to boat design, with an almost intimist vision
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
FILIPPO SALVETTI’S DESIGN PHILOSOPHY IS TO DIG DEEP INTO EVERY IDEA. Not content with simply uncovering the needs of a client, Filippo is constantly analyzing, whatever challenge he is currently working on. He turns the client’s creative needs into a joint research process, an ongoing exchange of meanings and sensations.
Unlike other areas of design, where the agonizing search for formal perfection can sometimes overshadow the content of a project, there are no formulas or predefined templates to follow in his interior world, no rules or limits, but simply flows of dialogue. His job is to channel them into a coherent vision for all stakeholders: the boat’s owner, the shipyard, and the engineers.
«When I’m working for Ferretti, I consider myself to be designing a Ferretti, not a Salvetti Yachts boat».
«Ferretti Yachts 1000 is the brand’s flagship and it heralds a new style based on even more simple and clean-cut forms. They give the yacht a strong, spontaneous, and graceful appearance with an extremely fresh and vibrant silhouette. The new concept for onboard flows which has been introduced here is set to become an iconic part of all of the large vessels in the range».
Filippo Salvetti started at Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta’s Officina Italiana Design, the studio that for many years has been responsible for designing the Riva shipyard’s full range of boats. He has nineteen years of experience to his name: eight at Officina Italiana and eight with Neo Design, and three years of working, among other things, on new models for Ferretti Yachts and Custom Line.
At the age of 47, almost 48, he is not an up-and-coming designer, but nor is he one of the old guard who wrote the history of Italian yachting – the architects and designers with thousands of designs under their belts, drawn using a pencil and French curve not to show off, but because those were the tools available.Designers who worked on everything: the hull, the deck, and the interiors.
The up-and-coming designers, meanwhile, are the young (or very young) professionals who are making a name for themselves, and who use computers and software, creating dozens and dozens of renderings every day, and passing effortlessly from car design to yachts and vice versa. Filippo Salvetti is somewhere in between, and he is not the only one. He is part of the generation caught between the two, bridging the gap between the old guard and the emerging professionals.
Rather provocatively, I begin our conversation by commenting that I’ve often heard more experienced designers say that youngsters, meaning everyone younger than they are, can’t design boats because they don’t know how to sail. Filippo Salvetti smiles but maintains his composure. «I don’t believe lorries are designed by lorry drivers», he replies. «Experience is important, and feedback from the owners is crucial, but there are people working at the shipyards whose job is to gather this information and then pass it to the people like me who are designing the boats. Our job is to translate this information into a design».
Touché. One-nil Salvetti. Not content with that, he sticks the knife in further. «I’ve heard some of my colleagues say that they know how to sail because they used to go out on a sailing boat when they were younger. Only they had an Optimist or a 420,and I doubt that experience helped them design an eighty-meter motor yacht». Speaking to him, I realize he bridges the gap not only in terms of age but also in terms of his thinking.
He revamped the entire 30-60 foot Atlantis range for the Azimut Benetti Group, designing the interior and exterior of over ten models, as well as creating two superyachts for the group, 55 and 67 meters long respectively, for the Benetti Design Innovation project.
«The experience gained from other sectors like car design is crucial. But while this cross-pollination is extremely valuable, it is equally important that all these new ideas are built on solid foundations: what a boat is, what it is used for, and how it moves. My background is in modeling. It was the main reason Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta hired me, and even today everyone in my studio knows how to do it. Designers didn’t use to do it, but knowing how to create a 3D model of a boat has become an essential skill. One boat often looks very similar to the next one. If you want to obtain something different, you need to work on the design of the surfaces, on the solids and voids. 3D modeling allows you to produce lighter volumes – particularly on large boats, like wide-body boats, where the volumes are enormous – so you can create something unique. The volumes and surfaces do not just affect the style; they also have an impact on the masses and the proportions».
In 2016, he started working with the Ferretti group to complete the revamping of the Ferretti Yachts and the Custom Line Navetta range.
«The main focus with the Custom Line Navetta 30 was searching for a design whose classic charms never grow old. It might have the capabilities of a ship, but it is full of harmoniously balanced visual appeal. It was essential to find the right balance between the hull and the superstructure and emphasize the way the external lines stretch out horizontally to add a little vivacious verve to this distinctive, complex creation».
Filippo Salvetti is a well-balanced person. The more I speak to him, the more this impression is confirmed. He is not snobbish about young designers; on the contrary, he sees them as a very important resource. But nor does he intend to dismiss the experience and lessons learned from those who started designing boats a long time before he did. «The success Italian designers have enjoyed is not entirely our own doing. We owe a lot to the shipyards. Certain historic Italian business owners in the sector made our lives easier. If you look at an old Chris Craft and a Riva you’ll see they are similar, but it was Carlo Riva who managed to import a concept, turn it into a mass-produced object, and above all construct a myth around the image he gave his motorboats». It’s a very good point.
When he talks about his work and his current studio, where «everyone knows how to do everything because we’re not an assembly line», or analyses his favorite boats and the merits of the other designers who created them, Filippo Salvetti reminds me of the effect of ballast water. While your mind is traveling and heading in a single direction, while you’re listing, in other words, the ballast restores your balance. This is probably one reason why he has maintained excellent relationships with all the people he has worked with. «I thought very hard before deciding to leave Officina Italiana Design. It was a difficult decision because I was leaving a major studio and I was happy there, but I realized that I had to try to plot my course. I remained friends with Mauro and Sergio, indeed they found me my first clients».
In 2014, he started designing the new range of Bugari yachts, all between 70 and 120 feet long and with planing hulls.
This was another wise decision. Salvetti worked for Atlantis, redesigning the shipyard’s range from scratch, and then for Bugari, which asked him to create something a bit different from the Navetta boats they were making. More recently, he has worked for Ferretti and Custom Line. In some cases, he was given carte blanche, while at other times, as with Ferretti, he had to be innovative without overdoing it.
«The design of the new Ferretti Yachts 500 highlights an overall dynamism thanks to new and innovative stylistic features of the superstructure. A natural heir to the Ferretti Yachts 720, it reinterprets the new styles of the range in a very personal way. It proposes a layout based on a design centered on people and their life on board, a typical approach of the Ferretti DNA».
«I don’t think the difference is that great because you always have to take on board the shipyard’s demands when you’re designing. I believe designers should be able to adapt to their client’s wishes. If the shipyard wants to change its style and type of boat, you try to diverge from what they had previously; and if it has no intention of changing its DNA, your job is to modernize the design without revolutionizing it. When I’m working for Ferretti, I consider myself to be designing a Ferretti, not a Salvetti Yachts boat».
Salvetti lectures in the Faculty of Design in Milan.
(Filippo Salvetti, flows of dialogue – Barchemagazine.com – October 2020)