Luca Dini tells us a piece of his story as a designer. Today, in his studio, more than 50 people transform visionary ideas into ambitious projects
by Francesco Michienzi
With his work, Luca Dini does not seek to impose a style, but rather to create an ever new and diverse style, a unique imprint. Determined, ambitious, and with biting sarcasm, the founder of his studio, he is the mind that over time has been able to create a world in which even the most distant things can coexist: aesthetics and functionality, elegance and innovation, land and sea. His vision has upended consolidated ways of thinking and acting and left unerasable signs in the world of yacht design and architecture, taking the best from one and seamlessly integrating it into the other.
Luca Dini, is there a common school of thought that influences yacht designers? I believe that the common thought could certainly be that of creating an object that can somehow influence the future of yacht design, so there is no doubt always a search for something different. At times it is a question of the ego because you somehow, through the object you design, try to remain recognisable as a studio and a designer. Other times, it is more about the will to launch a new line. Often, what I and some of my colleagues have in common is precisely the fact of breaking with certain schemes that have been created over time.
What is your point of departure when approaching a new project? I think there are various schools of thought from this point of view. As far as I’m concerned, it also depends on the client I am dealing with. Many times we set out by being inspired by different worlds, from architecture in general to car design, airplanes, many things… it depends, as I say, also on the client you are dealing with and on the goal you need to reach. Certainly, our point of departure is still the hand-drawn sketch, something which is rather rare today, but I jealously keep precisely a division with three people who have this ability, they have a gift which is the gift of drawing by hand, and with them, we always start by sketching things on a white sheet of paper. Of course, then we transfer everything to the computer, but our approach is the hand-drawn sketch, the idea that is passed on to the hand and then to the pencil.
How do you manage relations with your yard clients and owners? Do you often have to give up a good idea of yours to mediate? By choice or by chance, I still don’t know exactly, we often find ourselves working with private shipyards or small shipyards with limited productions. We have never worked for large groups, but mainly we work for private clients or yards that have a less ‘industrial’ set-up. Simply because we like it this way, because repetitive things bore me, so I like to always face new challenges and jot down ideas every time to create something different. I have certainly had to mediate for a thousand different reasons in the past, such as the budget or just practical issues. Many times your ideas can be innovative, but not easy to implement. So a designer’s skill should be to find a solution that combines aesthetics with the practicality of what we conceive and create. So yes, we have mediated, but we have also refused to do so when there was no valid reason for it. If I don’t see a valid reason to find a mediation I try to protect my idea and go through with it all the way.
THE 28.04-METER WIDERCAT 92 IS A MULTI-HULL DESIGNED BY THE STUDIO IN COLLABORATION WITH THE WIDER SHIPYARD. THE SIDE IS NOT REMINISCENT OF A CATAMARAN, BUT RATHER OF A TRADITIONAL YACHT WITH SPORTY LINES.
Aboard the WiderCat 92, there are four cabins for eight guests plus four crew members. The outdoor areas, such as the 67m2 beach club, can also be extended through hinged balconies with additional swimming platforms offering direct access to the water and beach club from the cabins.
The WiderCat is a very interesting project, is there one particular element that makes it special? The idea was to create a catamaran which was usually, until some time ago, a prerogative for sailors and considered to be somewhat of a hippie way of going to sea. This time, we wanted to create a sort of yacht on a catamaran. Beyond the fact that it is entirely sustainable and eco-friendly, i.e. electric, it is based on specific research to achieve a beautiful object. We have tried to create somewhat of a sports yacht set-up for this different way of going to sea.
You have designed boats of all kinds, is there one you are particularly fond of? We have designed and made almost 100 boats that are floating today and I must say that very few are repetitive. They all have a different story, they all have something special to say because they are often the fruit of an effort that lasted at least two if not three years, often with clients and families. Sure, the one I am particularly pleased about is the Sea Force One, the 54m Admiral, which is a rather dated boat today but is still part of every conversation. Let’s say that this one helped me to open up towards the world of architecture in general, even residential, it seems absurd, but that is the way it is. Now our projects are 50% architecture and the other 50% boat design. Both with great satisfactions that have led us to become the eleventh most important firm in Italy.
Heesen Project Gemini 55M
The innovative use of glass and mirrors amplifies the space and offers plenty of natural light and panoramic views. The very top of Italian style and craftsmanship are combined with Heesen’s exceptional engineering standards to create a brand new and unique design, with fine wood essences, decorated glass and natural stones, fabric-covered ceilings, and leather doors.
How have new materials influenced your work and made it easier? In many ways. When I first approached this world, in late 1987, there were very few materials, and all of them were very heavy. Today we can do amazing things, both in terms of shapes and weight, also due to the variety we have. New materials have significantly helped our interior designers in particular because they are continuously stimulated and that is marvellous. The interior décor of a yacht has an enormous importance today.
How important is the design in the choice of a yacht? Well, this is quite simple. I think it is crucial. For instance, in 99% of all cases today a supercar is chosen for its external line, certainly not for its interiors. Then if it is also comfortable and elegant inside, sure, that is a plus, but always a relative one. The boat is purchased because it is a beautiful object, both outside and inside.
Rossinavi 50M LEL
Launched in 2020, LEL is the first collaboration between the shipyard Rossinavi based in Viareggio and the studio. This project resolves the century-old dispute between the typical, sporty lines of Italian yacht design and the customer’s request for larger and more comfortable living spaces. It has the aim of meeting the increasingly essential limit of 500 GT, while still achieving an attractive exterior design.
In the past, you have never been a lover of free-standing furniture, what is your stance on this today? It’s not that I didn’t like free-standing, to the contrary, I was never fond of interiors that didn’t have a personality. Today the free-standing is very helpful because the image of an environment can be entirely changed also thanks to the change of furniture. And on a boat designed just 30 years ago, this would have been practically impossible. So the sideboard, the base of the sofa, the nightstand, and the bed, were always the same design repeating itself. Today that’s not the case. If an owner gets tired of his interiors after some years, by changing the free-standing furniture and a few fabrics, he will have a new boat. So, free-standing pieces are more than welcome, especially for the outdoors. But I say no to those interior coverings, to those approaches to interior design that entirely forget that the point is to go to sea and be on board a yacht.
T55 SPORTIVA IS THE FIRST MODEL IN THE NEW LINEA SPORTIVA DESIGNED BY THE STUDIO FOR TANKOA. WITH A DYNAMIC SOUL, IT HAS DISTINCTIVE TRAITS SUCH AS THE LARGE COCKPIT OVERLOOKING
THE SEA AND EXTENDING AFT FROM THE MAIN DECK.
Tankoa T55 Sportiva
The T55 Sportiva is equipped with a pool immersed in the terraced stern deck and a comfortable passage to the SPA area on the lower deck, complete with a gym and sauna, as well as a garage with side access for water toys. The owner’s suite features a jacuzzi. It can accommodate a hybrid-propulsion system with a maximum speed of 16.5 knots.
How do you imagine boats in ten years? Certainly much greener than they are today, although it won’t be a handful of boats that will change the story of sustainability in the world because the number of boats can never be compared to the number of cars. In ten years, I expect that unfortunately, we will be driving only electrical cars. No doubt boats will also go in that direction. Furthermore, I imagine boats will be increasingly connected to the exterior, so the tendency will be to open up, add light and have a stronger bond with the exterior environment; I see boats becoming increasingly comfortable in the future. As far as sports boats are concerned, I think that unfortunately, it will be tough from now on, especially in terms of consumption.
Are you just as enthusiastic and curious about your work as you were at the beginning of your career? This links up to what I said before. The choice of working with small numbers and, as a true man from Florence, the knowledge of craftsmanship led me to be a bit the craftsman of boating. Small pieces, small figures, private clients for small companies who like to create a unique piece without too many repetitions. This is what triggers curiosity and enthusiasm. Even the relationship with the yards is crucial in this sense. I will quote, for instance, Codecasa which is famous for the type of attention they place on their constructions and which allows us to maintain attention for every detail high. In addition to me, the studio is composed of very young people with a lot of drivers who do not lack curiosity. It is a nice mix which I pushed for very strongly to convey this experience to young people who want to explore. I believe this is also a key to certain success.
THE EXTERIOR LINES OF THE COLUMBUS ARE SPORTY AND BOLD, IN SYNCH WITH THE COMFORTABLE INTERIOR SPACES, IDEAL FOR DAYTIME SOCIALIZING WITH GUESTS. M/Y K2ACCOMMODATES 11 GUESTS IN FIVE LARGE CABINS AND 11 CREW MEMBERS IN SEVEN CABINS.
Columbus 50M K2
The first example of the Columbus Sport superyacht line was designed by the firm, inspired by the lines of supercars, and designed for an elegant and demanding shipowner who is also a lover of sports and travels. It embodies two distinct souls that make it both a full-fledged sports boat in terms of maximum speed as well as a top performer in comfort and range.
Is there one particular anecdote among many you care to remember? There are thousands of anecdotes, I have seen all sorts of things in my career. Maybe I could mention the first time I worked on a really important boat, a 50-meter built for the owner of the Gap Banana Republic in Los Angeles. I had never built anything that large and I was truly at the beginning of my career. I met with him in Milan, he proposed to pay me with his watch and in the end, he asked me to give him a ride back to the hotel without knowing that I had arrived in my Fiat 500. When he saw it, he laughed like crazy and since then we have been not just client and designer, but also friends. Seeing this man who was so used to private jets, Rolls Royces, get into an old 500 that had belonged to my family since the ‘60s was strange, but it founded a friendship that is still going strong after 25 years and is based on great mutual respect. From that moment on, as I say, something marvellous was born that gave me the chance to access the world of important boats.
Among the negative aspects of your career are the bankruptcies of some historical shipyards you worked for, what have you taken away from those painful experiences? The most painful one was Admiral, one of the shipyards in Lavagna, because, in addition to being clients, the owners of the yard were and still are my friends. I hope they can soon get back to the peak of their success. Every time we design a boat we become partners of these entrepreneurs, we work side by side with them, rejoice and cry with them. That is why, when something doesn’t work, we suffer the same pain as they do. What we can do as designers is help them to get back on their feet and see the light again.
GENTLEMAN’S YACHT IS PERFECT FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SPEND SOME QUALITY TIME EXCLUSIVELY SURROUNDED BY FAMILY
ON A TIMELESS YACHT. THE FULLY CUSTOMISED TENDER IS LOCATED
ON THE MAIN DECK CREATING AN EXTRAORDINARY OPEN LIVING SPACE.
Cantieri Navali Codecasa Gentleman’s Yacht 24m
A 24-meter yacht, currently under construction, is entirely made of aluminium. It harmoniously combines the lines and vintage flair of the ‘60s with exclusive, technologically advanced solutions. Exterior lines, interior layout, and design are the result of a perfect balance between comfort and sustainability, with a particular focus on the beach club and the style and elegance of the past.
Is there anything you would like to change in the nautical industry? Yes, I would like there to be less haughtiness and less arrogance. This is a world, which seems to be all glitter, money, and ease. There are many extremely good people in the industry, but just as many who come to the world of yachting just for the women and the champagne. This part makes me laugh but it also makes me sad from a certain point of view because it is unquestionably part of our world, but it is a consequence, it cannot be a goal. This is a message which I try to convey whenever I am invited to talk about my experience because I see that young people today are generally very attracted to the glossy page in the magazine, the photograph, and the many boat shows. All that is merely a consequence, if you work with your brain and with passion all this will come and nothing is for free. I would like for this attitude to be different and for people in the industry to pay a bit more attention to the product. We always try to produce higher numbers and forget about attention to detail and the product. These are the things that make me sad about this world, but it is still an unique and fascinating industry.
(Luca Dini Design&Architecture, letting opposites coexist – Barchemagazine.com – June 2022)