Francesco Paszkowski has designed planning and displacement yachts from 24 to 72 metres long in fibreglass, steel and aluminium, destined for yards and owners from all over the world, who have chosen him to develop their boat
by Rebecca Gentilini – photo by Studio Ciapetti and Giovanni Malgarini
When looking at a masterpiece, we admire the work of a great artist, but also the lessons they have learned from those who came before them. The same can be said of modern boats. And if they’re designed by a designer born in Milan, who has since moved to the Florentine hills, his design studio will therefore resemble an ancient Renaissance workshop. All the great artists of that era frequented workshops, where they learned the secrets of the trade. Having grown up professionally with his father Giovanni and with the architect Pierluigi Spadolini, Francesco Paszkowski opened his studio in 1990.
His team is made up of highly talented young people of different nationalities and represents a real hotbed of ideas used to develop the various projects. Interference between art and design is an age-old story that often produces spectacular results, as in the case of many of the yachts designed by Paszkowski.
How has yacht design changed over the last ten years in your opinion?
Market tastes and shipyards’ requirements evolve very rapidly. In addition to this so-called natural change, we have also experienced the effects of the world financial crisis of 2008 over the last decade, which has altered the world even further. Tastes, requirements and the approach to the market and buying boats have all changed. In design terms, it’s not simply a matter of changing shapes. Today’s boats are more ‘open’ than ever before. There’s a demand for large windows, spaces projected towards the outdoors. People want to be inside the boat but feel like they’re outside at the same time.
We’ve seen the development of infinity pools, large fully equipped beach clubs, a demand for ultra-private decks, for total privacy both at the marina and at anchor. What’s more, when it comes to large yachts there’s a growing demand for boats suitable for two types of usage: private and charter. On the one hand, the crisis has led some yards to focus on more traditional products, while others have opted for different solutions, seeking out innovative products requiring bigger investments and entailing a great business risk.
What’s more, we shouldn’t forget that the Shipping Registers have had a big influence on yacht design, requiring a considerable effort to comply with the parameters they have imposed. Lastly, the growing number of players on the international scene – designers, competent technical offices within yards, expert owners supported by capable supervisors – permits a broader and more constructive exchange of ideas in a world with expanding borders compared to the past.
And how has your way of designing boats changed over the last ten years?
My way of designing is still the same… in the sense that a project always starts with a freehand drawing, which is vital in my opinion, although I also think that the design programs available today make a fundamental contribution. However, pencil marks on a blank sheet speak a universal language, which can be understood wherever you go. It’s a way of transforming an idea into a symbol. It’s something that can be done anywhere and at any time. Likewise, there has been no change in the way I draw upon new ideas or find a source of inspiration, which might be an object, a person or a visit to the Hermitage in St Petersburg.
Ideas can come at any time, wherever you are, whether in your studio, travelling or playing with your children on the beach…
What has changed is the market. The 2008 crisis changed everything. As well as being a financial crisis, it was also a crisis of values, changing the way in which individual yards approach the market and generating different habits among owners, who are now more expert, going from mere users to invaluable consultants. In this new scenario, the yard’s expertise is fundamental in order for the designer to be able to play their part of anticipating trends by exploring new paths.
The studio has sought to grow in order to meet market demands and the yard’s business philosophy, putting forward the most suitable design for each yard or owner and focusing on those details that, while not necessarily apparent at first glance, actually go towards creating a new design without having to resort to completely overturning a process that is in no way simple, or looking for that intuition that shapes an innovative project.
Are there any stylistic elements that identify your boat designs as yours?
Of course, and I think they’re the reason why owners and yards decide to work with our studio. But the boats that we design don’t just come from the studio. We interpret the owners’ wishes or the yards’ requirements on the basis of our stylistic canons, which are why we are chosen in the first place.
I think they could be summed up as balance, consistency, harmony, clean and dynamic lines.
What are the most complex boats you have worked on?
There’s no such thing as an easy boat or a difficult boat. They are always both. What initially appears difficult can actually stimulate you to find a solution and then the difficulty disappears. However, an easy situation spurs you on to refine what already exists or perhaps come up with some innovative ideas.
Have you ever had to deal with decisions made by the owner that you don’t perfectly agree with, but have had to support?
I firmly believe it’s indispensable to be on the same wavelength as the client, whether it’s an owner or a yard, in order to meet their boat design wishes. This mechanism has to be triggered immediately, otherwise it’s difficult to work together and you won’t achieve the desired result. It’s better to turn the project down if you realise there is no feeling. Having said that, project development is all about teamwork – owner, yard, design studio – and when there are different viewpoints in play they need to be discussed.
Nevertheless, if that harmony that I mentioned earlier is in place, you usually reach a solution that everyone is happy with, in keeping with the owner’s and yard’s requirements on the one hand, but also true to the established design philosophy on the other, allowing for a coherent result. A project’s success never depends on a single person, but on a team – yard, owner, naval architect and designer – and on the contribution that derives from the differences of those who form part of it after having overcome the obstacles encountered along the way, just like any other project.
What is the most fascinating aspect of your work for you?
Broadly speaking, people are the most fascinating aspect in this line of work too. The best moments of my job are always linked to people. Then comes the search for new solutions and the diverse nature of the job thanks to the possibility to work on custom and production boats. Being able to work in both fields is one of the advantages of this wonderful job, because they are so different and yet both fascinating, meaning that you never get bored. One involves the quest for something exclusive, while the other focuses on meeting the yard’s requirements with a focus on evolving tastes over a broader period of time. However, both custom and production boats share an awareness of the yard’s areas of expertise.
I like the strong teamwork with the technical office and all the other players involved, such as naval engineers, designers and owners. I also like the knowledge that the boats are first and foremost created for the sea and that, even when the boat’s design gives it an identifying aesthetic value, this role is unavoidable, bearing in mind all the fundamental aspects such as dedicated materials, use of the technology needed to ensure safety, structural and functional limitations, and consumption, to create a balanced combination.
Which boats are you most fond of?
Designing and developing a boat is like going on a long journey with the yard and the owner. You experience and share emotions en route and tackle each problem as it arises. Every boat generates different memories, partly because you work with different people each time, and every boat leaves its mark. It’s difficult to rank them…
Are there any boats you would design differently?
I wouldn’t say so. Obviously each boat is a child of its time and reflects the tastes, trends and technical limitations of the period. The end result, meaning the boat on the water, is achieved following extensive reflection, experiments on paper, analyses and choosing between the various solutions available. There’s plenty of time to see the end result in advance, which almost never comes as a surprise.
Which aspect of your work weighs on you the most?
I think I’m lucky because I still have the privilege of doing what I perceive to be the best job. The field we work in, the people we meet, the variety of the job itself are all aspects that make me love this profession and enable me to overcome the moments of difficulty, which you would experience in any job.
Have any owners given you free rein?
Yes, more than once. Being able to explore new ground is the most fascinating part of the creative process. Even in these cases, I try to approach the project with an open mind, gaining an understanding of how the client lives, what their habits are, even outside the context of the sea and boat, what they want and what they don’t like, so that I can present a design that resembles them and that, if possible, anticipates some of their requirements that they’re not even aware they have.
(Francesco Paszkowski, this is for me the yacht design … – Barchemagazine.com – November 2018)