Is it a bird's nest? Is it a plane? Zaha Hadid designs a superyacht

Famous Olympic architect takes her expertise to the water

Cahal Milmo
Wednesday 16 October 2013 21:33 BST

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


To the untrained eye, it might be a post-modern cheese grater or perhaps the results of a brave but doomed attempt to build with putty. It is in fact the next must-have for any self-respecting plutocrat in search of a waterborne pleasure palace - a Zaha Hadid-designed superyacht.

Click HERE to see more images

The Iraqi-British architect has unveiled a range of vessels created for German shipbuilder Blohm + Voss incorporating a sinuous “exoskeleton” of interwoven support beams to give the ships a passing resemblance to the Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium.

Dame Hadid, who once said she does not design “nice buildings”, is renowned for her elongated and often curving forms such as the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics last year. But her foray into marine architecture takes her liking for flowing organic forms to several new levels, at least one of which could incorporate an onboard swimming pool and a 007-style submersible.

The mesh-like structure connects together the decks of six yacht designs drawn up by the architect, ranging from a 128-metre “mothership” to a smaller 90-metre version which has been turned into a workable model and named the “Jazz”.

Commenting on the difficulties of reconciling her land-based buildings with ocean-going mogul runabouts, Dame Hadid told Dezeen magazine: “As a dynamic object that moves in dynamic environments, the design of a yacht must incorporate additional parameters beyond those of architecture - which all become much more extreme on water.”

It is not the first time that Hamburg-based Blohm + Voss has recruited a leading architect or designer to create an eye-catching marque, having previously enlisted Philippe Starck and Briton Tim Heywood to dream up vessels.

But as the superyacht market recovers from the travails of the 2008 crash, during which newly cash-strapped oligarchs and billionaires abruptly cancelled orders, manufacturers are once more seeking to differentiate themselves in a reinvigorated market.

It is estimated that up to 700 superyachts, measuring 24 metres or more in length, are currently under construction and with some 200 new billionaires created last year alone there is an expectation of significant further orders, in particular from Far East economies including Thailand and China.

A computer-generated rendering of the superyacht
A computer-generated rendering of the superyacht (Zaha Hadid Architects)

As one industry broker put it: “If you have got this sort of money then a yacht is a pre-requisite. It’s just a matter of how much you want to spend and how long it has got to be.”

In the super-wealthy parlour game of bragging rights for the world’s biggest pleasure boat, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich recently lost the top slot to the owners of Azzam, a 180-metre behemoth which was revealed to have been built for the Emir of Abu Dhabi.

A look inside the luxurious superyacht
A look inside the luxurious superyacht (Zaha Hadid Architects)

Mr Abramovich, whose £740m Eclipse features a bullet-proof master suite and reputedly a missile defence system, had himself displaced American businessman Larry Ellison’s 138-metre Rising Sun, which in turn overtook the 126-metre Octopus owned by Mircosoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Any tycoon persuaded of the merits of Dame Hadid’s design is likely to have wait four years from placing an order to heading for Monaco on board his or her new bauble. Dr Herbert Aly, Blohm + Voss chief executive, insisted the “bold new vision” would be worth waiting for.

Others begged to differ. One commentator on the Dezeen website said: “It looks like it was designed with crayons by a bunch of four-year-olds drawing on one page.” Another simply said: “A floating bicycle helmet.”

Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid (Getty)
Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid (Getty) (Getty Images)

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in