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Luxury motor launches (aka. motor “yachts”) are a new, rich and utterly predictable field of architect endeavour. Once again, Philippe Starck was there first. Honestly, the guy’s a genius. Here’s his M/Y “A” (Motor Yacht “A”).


M/Y “A” is a luxury motor yacht designed by Philippe Starck and Martin Francis,[6][7][8] and constructed by Blohm + Voss at the HDW shipyard in Kiel, Germany.[5][9] It was commissioned in November 2004, and delivered in 2008 at a rumoured cost of US$300 million.[10][11] With a length of 119 metres (390 ft) and displacing almost 6,000 tonnes, it is one of the largest motor yachts in the world.[9][12]



“I have to say I was impressed. It’s a very exciting boat to watch. It’s simply unlike anything that’s ever been done before.”

Jonathan Beckett, chief executive, Burgess yacht brokers [check them out!]


Never seen that before but blue LEDs are so 2005.

“…the most extraordinary yacht launched in recent memory. It is stunning.”

David Pelly of Boat International

A 1

“even more desirable than its larger sisters by virtue of lines reminiscent of a nuclear submarine”

Nazanin Lankarini, New York Times2011

Comparisons were made with the Zumwalt-class destroyer.


Others just called it

“bold and eccentric”

The Superyachts, 2011

Opinions were divided, and not just on the aesthetics of it.

sigma starck

“I’m all for innovation—as I’ve said before, the rich are free to spend their money as they like, including by building ugly boats that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But seeing pictures of Sigma [“A”‘s other name] almost makes Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon look like an act of restraint and good taste. Now that’s a nautical achievement.”

Robert Frank, The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2008.

[FYI, here’s Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon

“overall it doesn’t float my boat (sorry, kids, couldn’t resist), but I do quite like the inverted bow design”

Power & Motoryacht magazine columnist Diane Byrne

“[A] …is aggressive, like a giant finger pointing at you. It seems to have nothing to do with the whole idea of yachting, which is about cruising around at a leisurely pace, and enjoying your friends and the sea”

Donald Starkey, British yacht designer

“one of the most hideous vessels ever to sail the seas”

Maritime commentator Peter Mello

“one of the ghastliest megayachts ever created” and “more like a cruiser for Darth Vader‘s navy than a family pleasure boat for the Mediterranean” (January 2008)

“I’ve gained a bit more respect for it. Technically, it’s impressive: Because of its ‘ax-bow’, the boat barely makes a splash in the front when it’s speeding along at 24 knots. And it’s different in a way few yachts are… So even though I still think it’s a monster, A gets a tip of the hat for taking a risk and being different”. (July 2008)

Robert Frank, Wall Street Journal

Next up, in our consciousness, was Foster+Partners’ 2009 Ocean Emerald which was one of four boats for rental. (I think it’s called charter when you rent the captain as well.) Here’s Ocean Emerald with the great man himself.


Here’s some more and better images.

At the time, it was mentioned that the design of Ocean Emerald resembled the design of a 1951 motor launch, Scherezade. This comment was dutifully noted and respectfully buried.

great minds
yacht design database

Here’s three of Foster’s boats (Ocean Emerald, Ocean Sapphire, Ocean Pearl, etc.) off-duty in Monaco.


Post 2009 has been a magical period of anything-goes motor yacht design. This is what a Post-Modern motor yacht looks like.


Alternatively, if you want to send a clear and irony-free message to pesky pirates then this muscular bad boy is what you need.


Back in Dezeen-land, next up in October 2012 was this baby – Venus by (hello again!) Phillipe Starck, for the late Steve Jobs.


The yacht was impounded on 21 December 2012 at the Port of Amsterdam following a dispute over payment. The designer, Philippe Starck, claims that Jobs’ heirs owe him €3 million of his €9 million fee for the project.[5]

The yacht was freed from its Amsterdam dock on 24 December 2012 after his estate paid off the last of its bills.[6]

Last to the party, whether fashionably or embarassingly so, is ZHA with its five different contributions to global madness. What we see next is


The point of departure for developing a unique circle of five exclusive 90m yacht designs

Asymmetry is suddenly a bold new design statement.

Zha, Jazz

Costs aren’t announced and interiors are to be designed to suit intended purchasers. It’s all no-risk publicity for the price of a few renders to test the water. One of Five is the 90-metre Jazz genetically linked, no less, to the mothership yet suddenly symmetrical all the same.

zaha hadid jazz

Let’s have some perspective here.

Sigma (M/Y “A”): US$300 mil.
Ocean Emerald: US$10 mil.
Venus: US$100 mil.
ZHA yacht range: TBA

This next is the largest yacht in the world, the Azzam, probably designed and built for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi.


His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. He is one of the world’s wealthiest monarchs, with a net worth of USD 15 billion. At an estimated cost of $605 mil., Azzam is 17.3m longer and more than twice as expensive as the world’s second largest motor yacht, the Eclipse (owned by Roman Abramovich).

With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches. Adam Smith

Thus, a $650 mil. boat has to look like a $650 mil. boat. ZHA don’t have a track record of creating the simply communicable value that high net-worth individuals prefer. Hence Round Two: the downmarket 2012 Z-boat ($457,000).


The asymmetrical design is sculptural in appearance while practically affording more seating accommodations. In a sense, the bespoke boat is as much a work of art as a Cisitalia sports car in the permanent collection of the museum of modern art in New York.

The idea is to think of vessels and vehicles as highly individualistic expressions of art, architecture and design reflecting the edge of what is possible using the most advanced means, including materials, software systems and methods of fabrication.

Design statement from Zaha Hadid Architects

[FYI: a Cisitalia cisitalia ]

In 2006 ZHA announced the Z-car, but the plans stalled and the plans never actually made it into production. Now here’s a strange turn of phrase. It seems to mean the project lost momentum until we read it was the plans that never made it into production. I suspect the client hated the design and decided the easiest way to kill the project was to cry financial circumstances. Suicide for ZHA’s PR to say that outright.

Image converted using ifftoany

Philippe Stark has had better luck with his Volteis.


He seems to know when not to design and that’s a valuable skill.