Dakis Joannou is a client with whom Ivana Porfiri has established a particular rapport. The effects of this special relationship have been surprising, especially since they unveiled the result of their latest collaboration. Dakis Joannou is a famed Greek art collector. He spends a lot of time on his yacht, which he uses as a home and a means of transport between the islands of the Aegean – and all without giving up art. Until a few months ago, his seafaring gallery was the Protect Me from What I Want, a traditionally designed boat that was also the work of Ivana Porfiri and was named after a piece by Barbara Kruger. The client did not want there to be any restrictions on the new boat (RINA Maltese Cross class), except those dictated by the size of Joannou’s moorings. The limited dimensions inspired the design process from the outset. Cutting away the bow is a tactic often adopted by ship-builders to gain length: once the boat has cleared official checks, the bow takes on its original shape again by replacing the part that had previously been removed. Designer and client agreed that there was no need to resort to this kind of “prosthesis” for the new boat. The snub-nosed cut made for practical reasons would remain, in effect, as a cut of the hull charged with great symbolic value. The line of the bow appears reversed next to the hawse, the hole through which the anchor cable runs. The cut was made on a fibreglass hull produced using a mould that was already in the shipbuilder’s possession. The water-lines remained the same, but the process of transforming a traditional hull had begun. While we were talking, the designer showed me a tiny boat made from stylised wood in three overlapping pieces. “This is the design that I had in mind from the start. Its simplicity sums up the research that led me to the design for Dakis Joannou’s new yacht: a standard hull, an intermediate space for laying out the bridge and communal areas, and a separate upper level, set aside for the owner. The surfaces of the glass sections are larger than usual and they are almost vertical (the angle is around 15°). Visibility of the outside is surprisingly good, especially in the owner’s area. This is often compromised by the streamlined shape of traditional boats. Here we have integrated design at the service of mobile architecture, a prototype for a new kind of boat.” The blocks have been designed to reflect the composition of the interiors and their surfaces. While the bow seems deliberately inverted, the treatment of the surfaces draws on a paradoxical use of camouflage.
Mimicry is well known in nature. Animals and plants exploit it to defend themselves or to attract prey, and its military applications are also extensive. During World War I, German U-boat commanders were often deceived by ships painted with mimetic designs that broke up the outline of the hull. This made it impossible to identify the class of ship and determine course and speed using a periscope alone. Thanks to “Dazzle painting”, or “Razzle Dazzle”, a camouflage pattern invented by the British artist and naval officer Norman Wilkinson, many ships escaped torpedo attack. The technique’s effectiveness declined with the advent of radar and sonar, but the history of cleverly disguised boats (whose designs were often inspired by cubism) deserves to be told in greater detail. Ivana Porfiri was convinced that, due to the distinctiveness of the overall architecture, the boat she was developing needed this kind of treatment: not just colour but camouflage. She telephoned Dakis, who happened to be in the studio of his friend Jeff Koons at the time. As the three of them talked they became excited about the unanticipated characteristics that the project was assuming. Koons immediately volunteered to do the artistic work, the client accepted, and the designer took up the challenge of applying complex camouflage to the boat.
The result is Guilty, a travelling manifesto that accommodates pieces by different artists in its interior. Their works seem to have been born alongside the choices made in the design. Corian floors and sides take on the colours of the changing natural light filtered through the glass, while in other areas white surfaces are covered with works of art, giving every part of the boat a unique personality.