Foster turns his hand to timeshare luxury yacht

He is the visionary behind some of the world's most avant-garde buildings, including the Swiss Re "Gherkin" in the City of London and New York's Hearst Tower. Now, Sir Norman Foster has turned to boat design, creating four 134ft luxury yachts to tempt the super-rich.

The British architect was commissioned to design a quartet of unique vessels by the company YachtPlus, which will charge an eye-watering €1.9m (£1.7m) for one-eighth of a share in a boat. In return, each owner is entitled to 30 nights on board per year.

The scheme is billed as a way for millionaires to maintain an aura of wealth even while they are feeling the pinch.

"Good design is about a commitment to finding the right solution – no matter whether we are designing a building, a new city or a kitchen," Lord Foster said yesterday. "Part of the special appeal was to combine the emphasis on the views and the light with an architecture of movement – to integrate the lifestyle element with the hydraulics and the mechanics of boat design."

Last weekend, the company launched the first yacht, Ocean Emerald in the Italian port of La Spezia. Each yacht costs €16m (£14.4m) and will be entered into the "fractional ownership" scheme rather than being sold outright.

Owners will have to fork out an additional €200,000 (£180,000) to pay for the vessel's maintenance, seven crew members, mooring charges and "lifestyle management service". After the eight-year contract expires, the boats will be sold, with the owners receiving the proceeds on a pro-rata basis.

The price sounds prohibitive, but Norman Foster's design is sure to have architects across the globe salivating. Each yacht has four decks with 5,285 square feet of internal and external living space. The five suites, capable of billeting up to 12 guests, have luxury Italian furnishings.