Quick Five Questions – Simon Rowell, Creative Director of Bannenberg & Rowell Design

Brave enough, twenty years ago, to slip the moorings of hotel design and set course for the sometimes eddying waters of yacht design.


What are the latest yacht design trends?

Yachting is attracting a new clientele, both demographic and geographic. It always has. And most recently that has wafted some fresher air into the new yacht market: less fuss, more adventure, cooler colour schemes, bigger windows, more sea, lighter, more physicality.

What are the most ground breaking aesthetics for you?

In those terms it’s hard to see anything that has been more ground-breaking than Venus, the Feadship Steve Jobs commissioned and sadly never saw completed. I don’t even really like the design itself, but I do appreciate it; it has an ugly beauty, and a purity of finish, engineering and resolve that is not at all easy to achieve in a challenging and conservative environment. From a personal point of view, I appreciate the fact that it heralded an ‘age of glass’ in yacht design. Eckersley O Callaghan (with whom we regularly collaborate, and whose engineering solutions delivered some of the most astonishingly beautiful Apple buildings) not only bridged land based and naval architecture with Venus, they brought the most progressive ‘can-do’ attitude. And that was one of the glimmering features that originally attracted me to yacht design.

Has the Pandemic changed the way owners use their yachts? If so, what has changed?

I think during the pandemic itself, there were one off factors and reactions that are probably best viewed only through the lens of a monumentally chaotic upheaval, one that is thankfully behind us: a collapsed charter season followed by a surge in buying of second hand yachts, followed by a rapid filling of order books for new build yachts. So, clearly something happened. But I think the essence of yachting is probably the same: enjoy life, enjoy the environment, enjoy the project, enjoy freedom. I don’t foresee a huge growth in people using yachts to isolate themselves from future health risks. But that last note ‘freedom’, that’s probably more crucial than ever in the thought process of those fortunate or hard working enough to enjoy yachting life. So ‘use’ of yachts may develop and evolve quite gradually with post pandemic attitudes, but perhaps appreciation’ has quickly come to the fore.

Estrade, our smallest new concept for a 43m yacht, built on the evolving themes of freedom, informality and adventure.

What is the most unusual design request you have had?

238metres, part bead polished steel superstructure, indoor tennis court, design studio, totally transparent frameless pool, hydroponic garden, quadruplex salon, 19m cinema screen (in the bedroom, of course). All on the same boat.

Designed, drawn, engineered, tendered. Not built #sadface #stillhoping

A very large fully engineered yacht concept, featuring vast glazing panels and a frameless pool, working with glass structures experts Eckersley O’Callaghan

Are owners looking to make the design and use of their yachts more sustainable? 

Honestly, yes and no.

As in real life, so in (super real) yachting. It’s definitely higher on the agenda than ever before, but the combination of regulation, engineering progress, new technology, positive PR are probably the main drivers of progress. Gradually over time sustainability has just become a cool thing.

We have clients right across the spectrum, where at one end its fairly low down the pecking order (though fuel efficiency is never frowned upon) and at the other end we have visionaries still seeking carbon zero nirvana (at least in certain operational circumstances). Sustainability lurches forward, falls back, drifts on a bit, and then adjusts course. I remember James Roy at Lateral Naval Architects patiently describing to a client the non-existence of a silver eco-bullet in favour of genuine incremental efficiency, in all areas, over time. It’s happening, and it works.

Yachting is often an extrovert’s pursuit and what was once perhaps an appealing ego massaging challenge, man+machine v ocean+elements, is surely easily supplanted by the even greater Musk-type challenge of low impact sustainable and ethical engineering power…? Hope so.