THE ENGINE BEAT
An outstanding year: this is what 1962 was all about. The year of Arco and Taccia lamps, designed by brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos; the Catilina armchair by Luigi Caccia Domin- ioni for Azucena; the Ferrari 250 GTO; the Giulia, the family car that wins races, just as the Alfa Romeo slogan stated, the Ford Thunderbird and the Triumph Spitfire. But 1962 was also the year when the Bea- tles began their adventure changing the history of music forever. A year of revolu- tions, the best for Italy, with GDP at more than 8.6 percent: a record giving hope for a better future. Not surprisingly, it was also the year of Dino Risi’s Easy Life (Il Sorpas- so). The movie tells the story of Italy’s eco- nomic boom, with Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant whizzing around Rome’s deserted streets on August 15th on a Lancia Aurelia B24. The honk of the Spi- der’s horn, with Gassman crying «Vai Cav- allina!» is unforgettable. In the same film, Gassman «il Mattatore» takes off on water skis towed by a wonderful Tritone by Can- tieri Riva di Sarnico, shouting «Addio sed- entari!» to the boats at anchor. The power of cinema, of great actors and rising myths in an Italy moving towards La Dolce Vita: beauty, speed, holidays, levity and a bit of recklessness.
Yes, no one can forget the en- gine roar of Aquarama: a leg- end born in the same year, in the same shipyard, and first presented in 1962 at the Third Milan Boat Show. The prototype is actually # 214 of the Tritone series. Its name was Lipicar, from the initials of engineer Carlo Riva’s three daughters: Lia, Pia and Carla. Production started the following year and continued until 1966, for a total of 765 units built. Aquarama turns 60 but she doesn’t look like it because, like a few other products of the best Made in Italy, she has instant- ly become an icon: for her form and function, her materials, her details, her chrome plating, her performances, the body and soul vibrations she creates, the imageryshe evokes.
She’s got perfect proportions, with two engines to fly over the water at 70 km per hour. Sides, deck and stern are a whole: a research developed on runabouts worldwide. Components are original: the shining, aerodynamic chromed brass de- tails in tune with the Riva logo such as the bow roller and fender attachments, the helm recalling a car steering wheel, the siren, the typical aquamarine interiors combined with cream tones, the Vienna straw. That’s because she is a fine design object with a father - Carlo Riva -, a moth- er - architect and designer Giorgio Barilani - and many heads and hands devoting themselves to their creature: mahogany wooden boats, mass-produced through an unique industrialization process and a dis- tinctive artisanal touch.
After all, it is the world of Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, the 1958 film contrasting the ultramodern and cold life of the Arpels with the wooden toys of Uncle Hulot, human and playful. Just like the Arco: a direct-light floor lamp to illuminate with- out the constraint of a light point fixed to the ceiling. Very simple: an arched metal stem, a perforated cap, and a white marble parallelepiped with rounded corners. Arco is an icon because it has radically changed the way to make light. Similarly, Aquarama has revolutionized boating, the concept of motorboat and the way of going to sea, anticipating a desire that was spreading in Italy and throughout the world: the freedom to travel, not just on a Vespa to take a trip to the beach, or on a Giulia, «the car designed by the wind». She has ushered the discovery of vaca- tions, free time, and the pure pleasure of travelling aimlessly and without route, ex- ploring the sea, the Côte d’Azur and the Amalfi Coast. Aquarama was preceded by Corsaro in 1946, Ariston in 1949 («de- signed with love, born strong and pure like a thoroughbred horse. Unforgettable! My lord of the sea», Carlo Riva said), Tritone, the first twin-engine in 1950, and Florida in 1952. Carlo’s entrepreneurial intuition turned his father Serafino’s construction site into an industry but, as it’s often the case with many Italian design companies, there is no innovation without tradition: a heritage of knowledge, community, terri- tory, know-how (to do better than others), because quality is a fantastic obsession.
The story of Riva shipyard is well known: it began 180 years ago. It was 1842 when a young shipwright performed a miracle on Lake Iseo restoring most of the fish- ermen’s boats destroyed by a devastating storm, thus earning the trust of the locals. His name was Pietro Riva, founder of the shipyard. With the introduction of inter- nal combustion engines, his son Ernes- to began the era of large boats to trans- port goods and passengers on the lake. At the end of First World War, Serafino Riva turned the shipyard’s precious crops into a brand: in its early days production switched from transport to motor boating. Between the 1920s and 1930s, Riva signed several records and victories in national and international competitions with its racing motorboats. As Carlo Riva used to recall: «My father was fascinated by speed on water. He quickly became the builder of choice for all the most important boat racers of the time, for whom he built cus- tom hulls with lots of love and care. He won their esteem and friendship. Thus, I started breathing the exciting atmosphere of racing ever since I was a child; I looked at those champions with admiration, spied on their every gesture and recorded every comment in my mind. I was mainly focused on the construction phases of the hulls. One of the most vivid memories I have of those memorable ’30s is the silver motorboat that my father built for Jean Dupuy, the French publisher of the Petit Parisien
That’s right, we talked about the performance. Aquarama is beautiful, but also fast! She has been an object of desire for kings and queens, princes and movie stars, sea lovers or simple enthusiasts. At that time, the world was discovering that the finest boats were built in Italy, and more precisely in Sarnico. For everyone Riva became «the boat». Alberto Galassi, Ferretti Group’s CEO, in the preface of the book Riva in the Movie wrote: «The necessary premise, perhaps not easy to be- lieve, is that no product placement action was ever made in any of the movies you will read about. In fact, we often learn of the presence of one of our boats through word of mouth from someone who has seen the movie». Thus, even today, collec- tors and fans gather around at Riva rallies: a pop star success, a community of fans who recognize each other and connect in every part of the world.
The Cubo Ts 522 radio, designed in 1964 by Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso for Brionvega, is another design icon, the result of a long research on the shapes that ob- jects should have in order to keep up with the times, adapting to new lifestyles and new needs. The Cubo is a top performing radio that could be exhibited at home or taken anywhere. The material was inno- vative: two cubic shells in bright pop or- ange or red plastic with rounded edges. Those were the years of plastic, «invent- ed» by the Nobel Prize for chemistry Gi- ulio Natta and tested by his pupil Giulio Castelli at Kartell, the company found- ed in 1949 to produce household objects with recently invented materials. Anoth- er great signature of Italian design, is the legendary 4867 chair designed by Joe Co- lombo in 1967: the first injection-molded single-piece ABS in plastic. A few years later, in 1969, another innovative materi- al, fiberglass, was introduced in the Riva shipyards. Two well-known models, the Bahia Mar 20’ and the Sport Fisherman 25’ cabin cruiser, were born. Between the 70s and 90s, the St. Tropez was launched as well as the Superamerica, another suc- cess on the market for over twenty years. However, in September of the same year, everything changed. Carlo Riva sold the shipyard to the US investment bank Whittaker that had already bought famous shipyards such as Bertram. The 70s were uncertain years: trade union strug- gled, the world was changing. Who would have known? A new adventure began with the industrial production of Riva boats in plastic materials. Those were also compli- cated times for Italian design and fashion: styles were becoming ever more global while needs were increasigly customized and norm was no longer a universal value.
In 1989, one year after the purchase of 100 percent of the Riva company shares by the British group Vick- ers, Gino Gervasoni - who married Carlo Riva’s sister - left the shipyard after 41 years of activity. The Riva family was no longer present in the yard. In 1991 a new designer, Mauro Micheli, present- ed his first boat, the 58’ Bahamas, at the Genoa Boat Show. Micheli, with Officina Italiana Design, the studio founded with Sergio Beretta, was then in charge of de- signing the entire Riva fleet, from classic motorboats to superyachts: great perfor- mance, extraordinary beauty, technology and safety, in the name of perfection. Each project was unique.
After a brief ownership by Stephen Ju- lius, 100 percent of the shares of the most famous shipyard in the world were acquired by the Ferretti Group in 2000: the third and last revolution began. The company’s beating heart was still in en- gineer Carlo Riva’s office, La Plancia, in the middle of the big vault of the Sarnico warehouse. Today, though, production is also in Ancona, at the nautical center that houses the Riva Superyachts Division. Here, mega displacement yachts from 50 to 90 meters in length are designed, developed and built. The Ferretti Lab, where molds are studied and engineered, is in Forlì, where the Group Headquar- ters are also based. As in the case of all top made-in-Italy companies, requests become more and more customized and exclusive, with fiberglass open, sportfly and flybridge yachts ranging from 8 to 33 meters.
You don’t buy a Riva just because she has better features than the com- petition, but because you fall in love with her as soon as you see her. She epitomizes pleasure for beauty, attention to detail, pursuit of perfection and constant evolution», says Piero Ferra- ri, Enzo’s son and Vice President of Ferrari Spa, who has a stake in the Ferretti Group. That of Riva is a long history, which testi- fies to another characteristic of our long- est-lived companies: production and tech- nology, materials and models evolve, but in their laboratories the future is exper- imented, imagined and designed, under the aegis of a precise and strong identity. «Our duty is to carry on the tradition. As we always say: Riva, nothing else», comments Alberto Galassi in the preface of Riva Aquarama, published a few months ago by Assouline. Oh, by the way, in the conversation with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran which opens the book, it is he - the owner of an Aquarama Special called La Luna - who talks about «engine beat». It is the sound of the engine announcing a new journey: unknown destination, unknown route. Only the beat counts