The Secrets Behind the World's Most Famous Superyacht

Designer Philippe Starck reveals how the $430m Motor Yacht A came to be


Motor Yacht A visited Auckland in 2013. Picture / Greg Bowker

Launched in 2008 and still arguably the world’s most famous superyacht, the US$300m ($430m) Motor Yacht A is unlike anything else on the water. Commissioned for development over 10 years ago by its owner, Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, its designer Philippe Starck has for the very first time spoken publicly about how his unique design came to be.

In an interview published in the May edition of Boat International magazine, the prolific designer - known for his work on hotels including London’s Sanderson and the Royal Monceau in Paris, alongside innumerable restaurants and furniture pieces - explains that nearly fully fledged design ideas often strike him almost instantly. “Sometimes it only takes 30 seconds to make a design… I think to myself ‘it is too easy, it cannot be possible’. But 90 per cent of my work is like this.”

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When considering the aesthetics of Melnichenko’s new superyacht in 2004, Starck’s brief was both simple and vague. He had merely to consider the idea of length - the complete yacht measures 119m - and to meet a demand for six guest cabins; furthermore, the interior should display “opulence”. For Starck: “That was the beauty of the project and the beauty and intelligence of the owner. He just left me completely free.”

Starck always works alone and with a view of the sea, and as usual designed Motor Yacht A with a pen and paper rather than computer software. When Melnichenko was presented with the design it took him just 15 minutes to agree to it and, says Starck, he didn’t change a thing.

Though its interior will remain forever off-limits to the public, imagery of the yacht shows light-filled rooms finished predominantly with all-white furniture and it is lavishly appointed with three swimming pools (one glass-bottomed) and a helipad. Guests are served by a staff of 42. Starck’s favourite space is the water-level tender garage, which opens on three sides to create a living space set directly alongside the sea’s surface.

With the purchase of a superyacht undoubtedly one of the most ostentatious forms of discretionary expenditure possible, Starck unconvincingly claims Motor Yacht A is designed to represent “dematerialisation”, with the exterior intended to blend in with its surroundings rather than stand out. “The less you have materiality, the more you have intelligence, the more you have competence and the more you have harmony with humanity. The only thing which is deeply beautiful is harmony, because it is timeless.”

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Whatever his own assumptions about the way his designs are perceived by others, Starck’s work clearly impressed Melnichenko. Said by Forbes to have amassed a US$12.9b fortune, the industrialist with assets in fertiliser and coal commissioned Starck to design his €400m ($620m) Sailing Yacht A. Similarly audacious in design, the 143m, eight-deck, shard-shaped yacht is topped by three carbon masts measuring 90m - the tallest of any boat.

That vessel attracted attention recently when, as the Gibraltar Chronicle reported, disputed costs (in arbitration) resulted in the vessel being held in Gibraltar for a couple of days. The issue was subsequently resolved and the distinctive sailing yacht is currently undergoing sea trials as further fitout continues in Spain; delivery to its owner is expected in late spring.

- Telegraph

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