The Nuvolari Lenard studio, established 30 years ago, entered the market of big yachts right away. The first project was a Palmer & Johnson. The public was amazed: what colors, what performances! Different times... since then, they have designed everything: from large and small ships to production boats. Excellence and prestige
have always been a priority, with a sense of exclusivity that borders on luxury, a term that nowadays is difficult to use: it is, actually, more than that. The original founders, Carlo Nu- volari and Dan Lenard, were joined by collaborators and partners who complimented their talents as engineer (Carlo) and designer (Dan) respectively. Their sizeable studio, surrounded by water, is in the countryside around Treviso. We met the two founders with Valentina Zan- nier, who takes care of the interiors.
In yachting, starchitects’ signatures are becoming increasingly important. On board, de- sign contaminations seen every day ashore are evident. How do you feel about this urge to bring big names on board?
Carlo Nuvolari: It is a sign of times, of how the market and people’s expectations are chang- ing. This concerns not just mega yachts, but boats of all sizes. Yachting is not a real passion for the sea, it is an environment we are actually moving away from. It is no coincidence, in fact, that the sailing boat market is also declining, not to say collapsing. Yachting, today, represents a way to better manage free time. The need to face the sea is, thus, fading: you are on a boat but less at sea. Some shipyards openly talk about real estate on water. This is also reflected on board where sea-related necessities and, consequently, naval architectural style are no longer present. In other words: we are satisfied with building floating palaces, creating a not always positive contamination which hides elements of danger.
Also for the interiors?
Valentina Zannier: On board, design evolution is moving towards haute couture. Boats, on the other hand, cannot become empty boxes to be filled with designer pieces: the risk is con- formity. The path we are following is, in fact, more coherent: we prefer to design exteriors and interiors in a continuity of style. I have been working here for 21 years. I have built miles of boats for all major shipyards around the world. I design everything, tables, lamps, chairs, even all carpentry details. I follow construction, going to the shipyard very often to check how work is progressing.
Is design on board only a matter of aesthetic?
C.N. Certainly not. On board, functional elements are fundamental. In our drawings, in fact, the panes that close the aft wells sometimes hide sliding doors that can be closed quickly in case of Caribbean-like downpours.
Dan Lenard: On Veloce, our latest creation, we designed inverse decks, while all windows are tilted towards the stern. The boat seems to be breaking free: you feel movement even when she is stationary. We call it «Zero Speed»: it allows us to avoid using the typical arch connect- ing bow and stern in most maxiyachts.
V.Z. The boat must be entirely beautiful, from all sides. No matter from what distance you look at her. However, I don’t agree with the approach that puts beauty first, leaving function- ality and durability in the background. These boats cost a fortune, so objects and furnishings on board must last unlimitedly, and they must do their job. Each model is unique. This is why we design the whole ship. On the decks you can see how the two styles interact: fusion be- tween two environments with different functional requirements is achieved. Some common details create connections: they are useful to maintain consistency and uniqueness on board. Boats are not houses. We must never forget we are on a ship, not in a house on Lake Geneva.
C.N. All it takes is one day of bad weather, then you will never see those customers again: because they get scared. It’s unlikely they will ever board a boat in the future.
D.L. Some unscrupulous construction companies work similarly, modifying the master plan to allow construction of houses for thousands of people on land that is notoriously unstable or at risk of sinking under water: their logic is «It’s all good until it’s not», although everyone knows that those buildings are in danger. When it comes to boats, those who design them cannot underestimate the dangers coming from the sea.
Lately, boats feature more and more open spaces in the stern and in the bow. Why is that?
C.N. The equipped spaces in the bow can be used to have more privacy. We sail less and less. These maxiyachts are often moored at the quay. There is another factor, too: we are moving towards a world of floating real estate boats. Owners also consider how many square and cu- bic meters they are buying.
D.L. Megayacht means having many solutions available. Those who sail aboard these super boats don’t want to eat three times a day at the same table or drink an aperitif every evening on the same deck: even the largest of boats can get cramped.
V.Z. The boat layouts privilege outdoor environments, more than before but it’s lived inside, where most of the time is spent. It’s fun to stay out, but at the first gust of wind everyone hur- ries back in. Interior spaces are more important, volumetrically as well as functionally.
At the end of 2021 you launched Ahpo: a boat boasting an extremely aggressive design, very different from the other boats you have created. Starting from the name.
D.L. In that strange Mandarin language imported by the Chinese who arrived in the Carib- bean in the mid-nineteenth century, Ahpo would mean grandmother, old lady. The name is a tribute to his grandmother who emigrated from China by Michael Lee Chin, a Canadian tycoon of Jamaican origin whose net worth is now estimated at around one and a half billion dollars. His wonderful story begins with his first earnings doing small gardening jobs in a hotel park, to continue on board cruise ships as an engine-room cleaner. His debut in finance as consultant was the springboard of a career that in a few years put him at the head of an empire: at 30, he was already a millionaire.
Above, Alpha Nero is one of the most iconic superyachts designed by Nuvolari Lenard
in 2007: 82 meters long, Alpha nero was built by Oceanco. On board the 12 guest can appreciate the comfort of 4,000 square feet of living space. Below, Veloce, the last aluminium superyacht by Nuvolari Lenard. Built by CRN, Veloce was launched last September 3.
What story does Ahpo tell?
C.N. So many stories, Ahpo is very big.
D.L. I would say that the language we used for this boat is dangerous. Our starting point was a sports car. The problem was that the object we had to design was inconceivably larger and, moreover, had to sail. We were inspired by a white Ferrari with several carbon inserts: light and shadow effects that stand out when looking at it from above. With Ahpo, we designed a seamless hull: from the tip of the bow to the stern platform, the whole ship is comprised within a single curve.
C.N. The mast, instead, was conceived after a conversation with the owner, who also wanted the boat to be distinguishable and simple. Combining all this with his love for speed was not easy. Ahpo’s mast calls forth the smokestack on a merchant ship from the 1950s: an imposing black cylindrical structure linked to the tradition of military ships. It visually takes the load off the high parts of the boat where balloons and bulky radars are piled up.
Did you design the interiors, too?
V.Z. Ahpo is a special project for me because I have a special affinity with the owner’s wife: we understand each other with a glance. I prefer curves. The Mrs, as me, doesn’t like super modern, nor an aggressive design. So I could express myself at my best and in complete free- dom. It doesn’t happen often: the designer must handle customer requests curbing wishes that are not consistent with the project’s language and functionality.
The DB9 is a Palmer & Johnson megayacht 52 meters long. This semi-displacement vessel designed by Nuvolari Lenard was built in 2010 and refitted in 2020. Opposite page, the main deck of Lady M, a 63-meter luxury yacht built by PJ shipyard in 2017 with an aluminium hull and superstructure with a metal sculpture of a jaguar, in line with the energetic forms of the megayacht. The 12 guests can enjoy the comfort of 6 cabins, of the outdoor swimming pool while their transfers are assured by a helicopter landing pad.
Nord, on the other hand, is a totally different boat: she looks like a warship.
D.L. Lürssen himself proudly said she was a «fuck off yacht». It’s a joke, but Nord actually is scary: with that bow and those aggressive shapes she looks like she can fire at you if you get too close. We embellished her with appropriate «jewelry» and set up the interiors: we like to think she’s «a warship in a tuxedo».
In fact, the exhausts at the top look like cannons.
D.L. The bow is also very aggressive. Her design, though, was inspired by a precise func- tional request: the boat must carry a 15-seater Agusta Westland 130 that must be able to take off and land.
C.N. When we designed Nord, we actually thought of aircraft carriers.
D.L. Either you like it or not, she doesn’t leave you inresponsive. This was one of our goals.
Nord was built by Lürssen and her recognizability can never be questioned. Beyond the aggressive shapes of this 142-meter yacht, the name of the boat stands out on her bow: a unicum in the history of navigation. Her design was inspired by a precise functional request: the boat must carry a 15-seater Agusta Westland 130 that must be able to take off and land.
Love, Life, Liberty and Luxury: this is the meaning of Quattroelle, the Italian name of this 86-meter custom-built superyacht designed for long-range cruising. This is the first Lürssen yacht designed by Nuvolari Lenard, who was responsible for both the interior and the exterior. Opposite page, the project of the internal ladder of the NL281.
It leaves her mark: that’s for sure. Ahpo and Nord are two very different boats. If you should name two or three all-important projects, such as Alpha Nero, that have changed the way of interpreting large ships which would you choose?
D.L. It’s hard to say: the biggest boat is not necessarily the most important project. We are now working on a 32-foot boat. The commitment, though, is identical to that of a maxi yacht. Nord was certainly innovative. Black Pearl, too, is a sailboat where many innovations were introduced. Or DB9: an extravagant boat, much wider than her height.
V.Z. In order to create the Louis XVI interiors of Black Pearl, I went to Paris and studied the golden rules of that style.
C.N. All projects are engaging; no matter how innovative they are, because they are like chil- dren: you remember them fondly regardless of their size.
Veloce is your latest creation.
C.N. Veloce, is an all-aluminum 60-meter maxi yacht from the CRN shipyards with a semi-dis- placement hull. She is a superyacht designed to reach 25 knots of speed.
What are the new projects?
D.L. We have been trying to innovate without altering the DNA and the basic lines of boats built by the Ferretti group. Veloce is the first aluminum boat by CRN. Thanks to her semi-dis- placement hull, she should combine volumes and speed. We tried to make a boat that is gen- erous in terms of lines and spaces on board as the market demands today, but also fast. Inno- vation, yet also mediation.
In what sense?
C.N. The line of this yacht is consistent with those of the shipyard even though she’s a one of a kind model, custom-made for the client.
D.L. I believe that with this project we have paved a new way: when sailing at 15 knots, this boat behaves like a displacement yacht. As for shapes, we have tried to draw lines that deviate from tradition and mainstream.
Like the curved lines of the sides?
D.L. Not only. It is important that a prestigious boat has unique details that distinguish her. The curve along the side looks like an air intake: it is an aesthetic element in stainless steel reminding us that this is a fast boat while recalling stability at the same time, just like stabi- lizers on a Ferrari.
C.N. The cut from stern to bow gives the side a three-dimensional effect increasing volume perception of the whole boat: a stylistic connection to unite the volumes. A sports model must be compact. It can’t be sliced up like certain boats that look like some apartment building where an extra floor is raised when money is available. In regard to boats, a deck is added.
Some words express concepts and make people talk a lot not only in the nautical world. Innovation, for example.
D.L. We see little of it, but we hope to make our contribution. If the word hybrid is associated with innovation, then we are moving from bad to worse.
Hybrid goes hand in hand with a second term I would like you to discuss: sustainability. C.N. We better not talk about sustainability: it could just be greenwashing.
D.L. Boats represent sustainable waste.
D.L. Let me give an example, perhaps paradoxical but helpful to understand: why don’t we put sustainability rules on football as well? Let me provoke you: let’s turn off all stadium floodlights and play matches in the afternoon with natural light. A football night burns more energy than all the yachts in the world. If our individual daily behavior becomes a little more environment-friendly, much greater results can be achieved. Anyway, we are talking about a fleet of 10 thousand superyachts compared to 6 million fishing boats sailing worldwide.
Luxury is another magic word. What does it mean for you? What is the luxury of sailing?
D.L. The farther you go from the coast, the more you understand the sea’s great gift: freedom, distance from any type of constraint. The sea takes away pressure from you and, above all, it allows you to look at everything you left ashore from a different prospective. All this regard- less of the boat you are using: luxury is also sailing on a small boat to anchor in a secluded bay, away from everything.
What is the sea to you?
C.N. Precisely this: freedom and total, unmediated contact with nature.
D.L. The sea allows you to rediscover humility. We have created a world in which we can af- ford to be arrogant. At sea, as in the mountains, we have created nothing: we are just guests. You understand how nature must be respected, not just in ecological terms. We are insignif- icant living beings. We are trivial ashore, too, but there we deceive ourselves. Ashore we are arrogant; at sea we become humble again.
Black Pearl is supposed to be the longest sailing yacht ever built: she is 106.8 meters (350.1 feet) long. The tendering process began in June 2011 and included seven shipyards worldwide. The overall yacht design was done by Ken Freivokh, Gerard Villate, Nigel Gee, and Nuvolari Lenard. She was constructed at Oceanco, a shipyard in Alblasserdam, Netherlands, and launched inSeptember 2016. She was delivered in early 2018 to the customer, after it had undergone sea trials. With a steel hull, an aluminium superstructure, and carbon fiber masts, Black Pearl can cross the Atlantic using only 20 liters of fuel, aided by regenerative technologies.