When Architects Design World-Class Yachts, They Make Waves

From Zaha Hadid's curved lines to John Pawson's sleek minimalism, these aren't your run-of-the-mill luxury yachts.

by Noémie Jennifer
Jul 22 2015, 1:15pm


When contemporary architects design for the sea, the results are distinctive, with unexpected silhouettes and unrestrained luxury. In recent years, top architecture firms based in London and Italy seem to have produced many of the more memorable, avant-garde yacht designs. 

Take Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's Unique Circle Yachts, for instance, conceived along with German ship builders Blohm+Voss. They look as fluid as the ocean itself, with exoskeletons of supple, organic forms. The family of five 90-meter yachts aren’t sailing yet—the JAZZ yacht, closest in lineage to the master prototype, will be built first, while the other four will vary in layout according to owners' preferences—but it's easy to imagine mistaking one for an alien's pleasure craft. 



Hadid's yacht concept is a departure from that of her angular, geometric Z-Boat, a fiberglass speedboat designed for art dealer Kenny Schachter in 2012.

The Z-Boat, via

Foster + Partners completed the design for the YachtPlus 40 Signature Series Boat Fleet in 2009. The 40-meter yachts cruise at a speed of 16 knots (roughly 18 miles per hour), with living accommodations of over 5,700 square feet. Interiors are flooded with light, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass staircase connecting different deck levels. At night, the owner can set the mood with variable light settings both inside the boat and underwater.

Courtesy Foster + Partners

Courtesy Foster + Partners

Three years later, the firm's practice in Turkey began work on the Alen Yacht 68, a ship half the size of the YachtPlus 40—and almost triple its speed:

Courtesy Foster + Partners

From 2006 to 2007, British architect John Pawson worked with Milan-based yacht designer Luca Brenta to produce the B60 Sloop, a sailboat whose high-gloss white surfaces reflect light into every corner. The interior's strong horizontal lines appear to run across the vessel uninterrupted.

Photo by Jens Weber via

Photo by Jens Weber via

Over in Rome, Lazzarini Pickering Architetti completed the exterior styling and interior design of the 118-foot, 60-knot Wallypower 118 in 2003. Built for both performance and comfort, the narrow, angular yacht is the fastest of its kind and connects the seating areas, saloon, and navigation cockpit as one open space, with a 360-degree view from the dining area. The reflective exterior paint changes color depending on the surrounding light and landscape, making its finish look like copper in one photo, and steel in another.

Images courtesy Lazzarini Pickering

Not too far away, in Milan, Palomba Serafini Associati envisioned a "high-powered car of the sea" when designing Jolly Roger for the Benetti Design Innovation Project of 2012. The 65-meter motor yacht's long suspension deck at the bow acts as a living and social space, like a giant terrace overlooking the sea. Say what you will about yacht culture—a little architectural expertise, it seems, is what it to go from Gilligan's Island millionaire to bona fide Bond villain.  

Images courtesy PS+A


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Zaha Hadid
Foster + Partners
Kenny Schachter
John Pawson
Unique Circle Yachts