Case Study 1: Foster + Partners and YachtPlus partnership

After the global financial crisis hit in 2006 yacht designers, naval architects and particularly shipbuilders were looking for a way to reinvent their product so that it might weather the economic storm that was swirling around them. One way of doing this was to bring in designers from other design disciplines to give a fresh perspective on not only the physical design of the yachts, but also perhaps a different outlook on the marketing and what the target audience of them would be. 


One of the earlier and well known partnerships due to its great success is the joining of Foster + Partners with YachtPlus a fractional ownership and yacht brokerage company. In 2009 YachtPlus proposed Foster + Partners to design what is now called the 40 Signature Series Boat Fleet, which is comprised of four identical 41 metre yachts designed with a strong emphasis on space and light. Norman Foster led this project and prior to its commencement spoke of how he was “hugely excited by the challenges posed by the YachtPlus fleet starting with the design of the 40 Signature Series. For me this is an invitation to think afresh the whole concept of a 41 metre luxury super-yacht from a broad brush strategy down to the smallest detail both inside and out”.

Foster immediately took an approach to designing this yacht series the same way he would a building. He began with an abstract form rather than a predetermined hull shape or deck plan. Through the process of model making they came to a form that they were satisfied with and then moved on to the technical aspects of the design. Using the bullet-like shape they began to strip the façade to bring light into the internal space and then created bulkheads that consisted of floor to ceiling windows. This was an important aspect of the design as it allowed light to become a main focus, something that wasn’t really considered in yachting prior to this. Elements such as transparent stairs were also implemented in the design for this reason. 

The exterior deck layout is something entirely unique, but not totally detached from an ordinary yacht design. It is reminiscent of the popular symmetrical exterior stair layout that hugs the outer sides of a yacht, but Foster decided to extend these stairs across the entire transom. This is a most striking feature that emphasises fosters architectural background and willingness to experiment with something entirely new.

Foster + Partners released their final design to the public announcing that four of these yachts were to be constructed in the future. But it was only after this construction was completed that a vast number of critics were silenced. It wasn’t so much that an innovative design like this had not been seen before, but perhaps that a large number of these highly detailed rendered concepts were floating around the internet for sometime with no realisation in sight. So initially this concept was considered in the same way, but to the surprise of many it became a reality. This drastically changed the way people considered what was achievable in yacht design and took away any excuse of inconceivability that yacht builders, designers and naval architects had prior to this project. Therefore opening up a whole new set of parameters for future yacht design and construction.