Francesco Paszkowski is a successful designer who has created some of the most beautiful yachts in the international boating field. His approach is to design boats with dynamic lines, which give a feeling of movement even when at anchor
by Francesco Michienzi
MIXING TWO CULTURES IN A SINGLE STYLE THAT BECOMES A BLEND OF BOTH IS THE CHALLENGE FACED BY FRANCESCO PASZKOWSKI, WHO WAS BORN IN MILAN BUT LIVES IN FLORENCE. After learning his trade with his father Giovanni and the architect Pierluigi Spadolini, in 1990 Paszkowski opened his own design studio in Florence. The meeting of design and art is an age-old story, that often shows itself in spectacular results, as seen in the many yachts produced by Paszkowski. It is a creative tension which can be seen in a privileged place, that itself becomes a blend of dialogue between architecture and design in the construction of a complete work of art.
He has projected and designed planing and displacement yachts from 24 to 70 metres in fibreglass and aluminium for yards and owners from all over the world. The design studio has carried out projects for Baglietto, Heesen Yachts, Sanlorenzo, CRN, Turquoise Yachts, Canados, ISA Yachts and Tankoa Yachts. It won the Compasso d’Oro ADI Prize 2016 for the Baglietto 44 Fast Monokini together with Alberto Mancini, who designed the interiors.
Francesco Paszkowski’s story is a long one with all kinds of boat in sizes – how many have you designed so far?
I’ve never counted, perhaps seventy.
When did you start?
I’ve been working in the boating field for over 30 years. Baglietto is the yard I have done most boats for, all of them new models that have given me the chance to unleash my creativity. With Massimo Perotti we created the Sanlorenzo metal range, the 40-metre 4H for the Alloy series, the 46-metre and many others.
What was your first boat?
The 28-metre Baglietto Opus in 1994, a maxi open with Kameva waterjets and MTU engines – it was for an Austrian owner and was very fast. That was my first experience as a designer, I came from an adventure on the other side of the world and by chance I met Michael Breman, sales director at Baglietto. He saw my book and put his trust in me.
What exactly was in your book?
Some draft boat designs. I spent my days designing, I had worked for Tommaso Spadolini, and I started out on my own in 1990. I started to do my designs for a Greek owner who convinced me to go to Singapore to make boats for him.
What project was it?
It was a 42-metre displacement, which was subsequently also made as a planing yacht, a 28-metre planing model, which was turned into a displacement. I showed my work to Michael Breman, who said: “I like it, why don’t you join us”, and from there I started to create design after design. Then an opportunity arose with an Austrian owner who let me know that he wanted another designer. He wanted Alberto Mercati, who at the time was considered the top designer, and it was him who had designed Adler for Baglietto. He was already a legend, and I couldn’t compete with him. But Michael had the strength to get me into this contest, and the owner said that if I could manage to amaze him with some drafts he would let me do the boat, otherwise he would have gone back to Mercati.
Was Alberto Mercati something of an influence on you?
Yes, because when I started to imbibe the Baglietto style, Mercati was the number one designer. There was also Giorgio Magrini, Franco Giorgetti and Aldo Cichero – who had done Muffi Blu – a series of boats that had really turned things around for Baglietto. Looking at the various designers, the one who struck me most was Mercati, because I felt he was very dynamic, he was extremely modern. Even now, Adler is still one of the most modern boats ever built, it was a kind of Wally of its time, a boat that broke down frontiers. I was very inspired by him and the design lines he used because I thought they were very forceful and very similar to the world of cars.
Is that how you got the long line that you still have now?
Yes, I took pictures with my eyes in the Baglietto archive, I tried to memorize everything that I could, I took on all the style features that I thought were important as identifying aspects of the brand and of the boat and I made them my own. I mixed them and I started to bring out personal things. Then Gianpiero Moretti arrived, he is the owner of Momo Design, who bought Baglietto and said: “Paszkowski you have to be with me because you have the hand, let’s do some stuff together.” I did a 38-metre, and I still keep the model like a relic, because it was the boat that allowed me, years later, when Guido Orsi took over Baglietto, to give it to the new owners. He said he thought it was “beautiful, really nice, let’s see if it sells”. An existing Baglietto client arrived, together with his whole family, age-old Baglietto fans, and they betted on me to make a 34-metre boat. That was the one which let me get going with Baglietto. It was from those lines that my history really began seriously, they had made 34-metre boats, then boats of over 44-metres appeared. I was at Varazze for a decade, then – when Orsi bought the yard in La Spezia, I moved and there the series of displacement boats began. A friend of Orsi, Carlo Salvi, started the 41-metre displacement range and then we did the 43 and the 53 in the Blu Scorpion range, that even now is a boat with a strong personality.
At the time, as well as Alberto Mercati there was also Pierluigi Spadolini and Paolo Caliari.
No, Pierluigi Spadolini and Paolo Caliari were from before, I got there at the end of their time.
If we think of the history of modern yachting, we are talking about three designers of a very high level…
Of course, but in my opinion Pierluigi Spadolini is at the top of the pile, then Caliari, followed by Franco Harrauer and Aldo Cichero, but they come a bit later. The number one is Spadolini, who is the one who at the beginning of modern yachting created a style that the rest then copied, so that boats suddenly all became very streamlined with black windows…
But, out of these founding fathers of modern yachting architecture, who is it that has influenced you most?
I began work at the Spadolini design studio and so I couldn’t have done otherwise than be struck by Pierluigi. As well as the pencil and his design method, he had enormous intellectual capacity, you can tell that it was something that ran in the family, because his brother Giovanni was also extraordinary. When he spoke I was amazed: he managed to talk constantly without getting a verb or adverb wrong, everything was perfect. Pierluigi had the ability to very quickly bring together ideas in a design. He was a real master in yachting. My father had taught me how to draw, but it was him who taught me how to design boats. In the Spadolini studio, Tommaso had a small nautical department, and I worked there as a draughtsman. At that time, the drafts had to be done by hand and I coloured them.
Has this ability to draw by hand been lost to some extent?
No, it’s completely lost, it is a new era, today the young guys depend on Rhino, a CAD 2D and 3D programme for technical design, planning and industrial design which is one of the most renowned and established in the world. Young people only use computers to design, objects that are thought of are only pictured using a machine. Before these tools didn’t exist, and drawing by hand was a necessity.
Does it still now happen that, talking with an owner, a boat is drawn up on the paper napkin over a lunchtime chat?
No. I’ve never had it happen with tissues and napkins, but I like to draw on paper. I have done some sketches with owners present, and had an impact by using special effects, but that isn’t something that matters much. Drawing is essential, sometimes you have a thought that transforms into something and thus the pencil is the tool to represent your thought and you put it down on paper. If you have this gift, you are lucky, because nowadays you can control much more compared with computer programmes. If you already have something in your head, Rhino can do it for you, but you have to have it inside you and you have to have a blend of emotions, of things with impact. A designer sees them and internalises them, and that is the thing that makes you stand out.
When a new car is introduced to the market initially it gives you a feeling that something is wrong, the old model was better… does the same thing happen in the yachting world?
Not much, because investments in yachting cannot be compared to those in the automobile industry where you have to anticipate the public’s taste, and it is known that the life cycle of a car can be of five or ten years, and so they make a projection of what the needs of tomorrow’s buyers will be, really creating a product that has a large amount of very innovative content. We, by contrast, don’t have such large amounts available and so we have to make fewer changes.
Is that just something dictated by levels of investment, or also by ideas? In your role as designer and planner, you should have the chance to also express a concept that has not yet been featured on the market.
I’ve done that. I was lucky enough to have that with Sanlorenzo, I had put forward a design for a boat which had these terraces in the owner’s area that were in direct contact with the sea. Boats were all closed boxes, if you wanted to go for a swim you had to leave the box. Until then, it had been unthinkable to come up with doors to the lounge that opened to have balconies which had direct contact with the sea. I felt that was a need and I drew up a design that I took to Baglietto, but it wasn’t a success – they said it couldn’t be done. I proposed this project to Massimo Perotti, who really liked it, he believed in it and invested in it. Just as soon as we made that boat, the yachting world suddenly had balconies, terraces and saloons. If now everybody has taken up these ideas, then that is also to the credit of Massimo Perotti, who put his trust in me for this project.
What do you think of the vintage look, that looks back to the past and seeks to relaunch successful products?
“Nostalgia” is important in this world. If you look at the automobile sector with the Mini Minor and the Cinquecento, you would think that it was an easy path to take. But there are not many examples of success and you have to be careful to not make things too banal. Some yards are scared of investing in new things and prefer to stick with tradition. I myself do believe in restyling, but it has to be done with yards with some pedigree, that are strong enough to impose this kind of product. There are some re-interpretations of boats that used to be stalwarts for some yards that could be done. Beniamino Gavio has several times asked me to do new versions of some of the Bagliettos of the past for a relaunch. We redid a small 13-metre one, which Lapo Elkann bought and made known, which is a re-interpretation of the old Mas.
What do you think of modern yachting? Is there room for real innovation or not?
Yes, there is always room for innovation. Luca Bassani proved it with Wally, but that made clear that significant investments are needed to obtain positive results.
Don’t you, as a designer, feel the need to take things forward?
I feel that strongly. But I have to find an owner or yard that wants to join me in taking the risk. Let’s see if one of the yards that I work with wants to do an innovative project, but you can’t always be innovative, especially at times of economic crisis like now.
Shouldn’t it be the other way round?
It depends on how much cash is available. Right now the yachting sector is very much linked to how the world of finance fares, because owners are influenced by movements in the markets…
Do you only work in the world of big boats?
I work in the 30-70 metre range for owners who are involved in global finance: if the markets crash, or suddenly rise, new owners can appear and others disappear. Since 2008 it has been very much up and down, and the olden times will not return, but this lets us say and understand what to do in creating our products. There are peak times, people are optimistic and crazy products are launched, then you get the low times and you have to go back to doing more traditional things.
Have you never wanted to make smaller boats?
I have never had the opportunity. I would like to, even though it is a culture that you have to learn, like a doctor: there are surgeons who operate on hands, and others who operate on hearts, it is still all medicine.
(Francesco Paszkowski, a synthesis of emotions – Barchemagazine.com – December 2016)