Guilty

Guilty, the new yacht designed by Ivana Porfiri for Dakis Joannou, proposes a new model of boat design that is greatly emphasised by Jeff Koons’s camouflage design. Text Maria Cristina Tommasini. Photos Andrea Ferrari.

One morning in late August, I met Ivana Porfiri in the silence of her all but deserted studio. The relaxed atmosphere made it easier to talk about a project that has tested the capabilities of this versatile designer and her lengthy experience in the nautical world. A long-time collaborator of Gregotti & Associates, she has been involved in the planning of large cruise liners and yachts, which is still one of Porfiristudio’s central activities. The designer loves forging strong ties with her client: if both are seeking really innovative solutions, the meeting of ideas almost produces a kind of partnership.

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.

The camouflage
treatment of
the external surface
highlights
the boat’s innovative
spatial articulation
The camouflage treatment of the external surface highlights the boat’s innovative spatial articulation
Every single coloured
field was painted by
hand, once the
adjacent sections had
ben covered. Photo Giovanni Malgarini
Every single coloured field was painted by hand, once the adjacent sections had ben covered. Photo Giovanni Malgarini
Films
and television programmes are projected
directly onto the
walls
Films and television programmes are projected directly onto the walls
The boat’s interiors
are mainly made from
white Corian. The
material takes on
the colours of the
changing natural light
filtered thro ugh the
large anti-reflective
windows
The boat’s interiors are mainly made from white Corian. The material takes on the colours of the changing natural light filtered thro ugh the large anti-reflective windows
The yacht houses many
works of art, including
<i>Guilty</i> by Sarah Moris
in Cabin 3 painted on canvas,
which gives its name to
the boat
The yacht houses many works of art, including Guilty by Sarah Moris in Cabin 3 painted on canvas, which gives its name to the boat
In cabin 1,
<i>wow</i> by David Shrigley, painted directly
on the wall by the
artist
In cabin 1, wow by David Shrigley, painted directly on the wall by the artist
A sketch
for the design of the
interior
A sketch for the design of the interior

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