Amongst the quiet flats and meandering waterways of northern Netherlands exists a lively hub of creativity - the studio of yacht design company Vripack. Established in 1961, with over 7,400 vessels currently cruising the world bearing their credentials, Vripack is renowned for creating designs underpinned by smart, effective naval architecture and a can-do Dutch attitude.
Photo: VripackSitting down with Bart Bouwhuis, one half of the driving force behind Vripack, we quickly begin talking shop, unravelling the concept of the ambiguous explorer, and comparing tips on how best to recover from an exhausting week at the Monaco Yacht Show. “Monaco was vibrant. There is a lot more to come from us,” he says. Trained as naval architects and having been in the company for over a decade, it’s not hard to believe. Since taking the reins from Dick Boon, who founded the company in 1961, Bart and joint owner/Co-Creative Director Marnix Hoekstra have helped to mould Vripack into a complete one-stop-shop design house.
Photo: VripackSince Monaco, the two have kept themselves busy with an exclusive launch planned for the 2018 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. “The Nordhavn 80 has a similar look and feel inside as M5,” revealed Bart.
M5 is a 37.7-metre explorer yacht concept developed for a South American owner and his family who all enjoy a sportive outdoor lifestyle. “By creating this explorer concept, we also explored new ways of developing a new boat, we made it a fun and enjoyable process for the whole family.”
Photo: Julien Hubert / SuperYacht TimesThe interior for M5 had very humble beginnings on the Vripack drawing boards. “We typically work with three drivers which connect to the brand, the client and the lifestyle. We selected home, safety and comfort for this project. There are a lot of natural materials for comfort, and this is an interior style we really like because it is very homely, offers lots of light, and it’s pleasant. When we develop explorers, we are committed to making all those on board feel at home at sea,” explains Bart.
The organic and traditional pen-and-paper methods of design will most probably never cease to exist, but Vripack is doing things a little differently. Bart and Marnix have bigger and better ideas on how best to communicate, explore and make their ideas a reality for their clients. “We have been exploring with virtual reality for three years now,” Bart states, excitedly. Together with the innovative Floridian brand, The New Yachts Company, at this year’s MYS, Vripack put that work into motion, inviting guests to experience their 50-metre concept, Maharani in virtual reality.
Photo: Vripack“It fascinates me how technology has advanced so far but we still use traditional methods,” Bart explains as he gets the Vripack HQ’s VR ‘cave’ hooked up to present Maharani. When looking at a detailed printed render the outcome is reliant on the extent of the client’s imagination, but through the use of VR, it is possible to envisage exactly how one would look, travel and live onboard. “It’s a super valuable tool!” Bart continues. “In the beginning, people were a bit unsure, but it’s a new way to present. It is not replacing the old way with the GA, the visuals and the mock-up. You still use all those things, plus the fabrics and samples, but being able to let the client walk through the room and experience the layout and the size in VR - wow! You are adding a component of very little cost and lead time which adds a whole new experience. In refits, it is also interesting as the clients are familiar with their surroundings, and they know they are sat on their deck, but can see the difference.”
Walking through Maharani the full upper main deck is intriguing. “Stand at one end and you can see straight down the whole deck,” Bart explains whilst we wander through the virtual yacht. With the aim of the design centred around the human experience, all 10 guest areas are connected to the beach area, with the second deck dedicated to the owner for ultimate privacy and space. While continuing to push the boundaries of design, Bart explains how in a new project with Nobiskrug, they have designed the engine room in the front of the vessel, followed by the crew quarters, the guests, and the beach club. “We have put function in the front and the fun part in the back. Isn’t that so much more sensible? There are no technical limitations! The engine room can work just as well in the front as in the back. Clients love it - especially young clients who have chartered a lot and are familiar with yachting and understand the value of an open plan layout and having everyone together.”
Photo: VripackBy exploring new ways of presenting projects, the Vripack team are striving to educate their clients. “There is a big role for the industry to educate. We need to, and the client deserves to be.” As the somewhat traditional superyacht industry is “really reluctant to move ahead,” Vripack is making a conscious effort to encourage owners to invest in eco-friendly designs and not just be conscious of what the industry is expelling into the environment, but also what it is taking away. “We are experimenting with bamboo! It is a great material, it grows very fast, so it’s very cheap. We are using it for furniture and decking. As designers and architects, we need to stay ahead to educate and bring these new materials, plus the pros and cons to our clients.”
Photo: VripackOther areas where Vripack is thinking outside of the box and responding to their clients is evident in the 88-metre superyacht project, Utopia - a unique custom concept. “We have a client who has invented an air purifying system which is able to reduce the Co2 levels by 80-90%. We are experimenting with connecting that to a diesel engine allowing us to be super, super environmentally friendly. It’s going really well! It’s breathtaking - literally - because the system is very simple, it doesn't require maintenance or expensive filters.” The mission for the project was established after being approached by a very eco-conscious client who wanted to eliminate the most pressing environmental problems relating to yachts - waste. The diesel generators of Utopia are connected to an exhaust system and purifying chambers that feed the yacht’s exhausts into the onboard garden, allowing for the plants to take care of the yacht’s remaining Co2 waste. The Utopia concept is a traditional yacht design, with the capabilities of an explorer vessel that has been taken to the next level - a level which may not remain just a concept in the future.
Photo: VripackThose in the yacht industry who have the power to apply and invest innovations in technology is what will help the industry move forward. Concepts such as M5 and Utopia exist to push the boundaries of yacht design, capabilities and category - such as the explorer yacht. “People think exploring is travelling through ice and seeing penguins. But that’s the great thing, exploring is different for everyone. What we like is developing a new boat that isn’t necessarily what you think of an ‘’explorer’’ yacht - but it’s a fantastic way of exploring. The development process with the use of VR is also an expedition. 9/10 times we start with a conversation and a brief, and 9/10 times we end up bringing something different to the board. We ask deeper questions and find that there’s another layer to explore. We are the designers so our role is to inspire - and unravel the explorer concept.”
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