Designing The Next Generation of Superyacht With Jean-Louis Stutzmann Interview by Fiona Sanderson and words by Hannah Norman

The Luxury Channel meets Jean-Louis Stutzmann, Chief Designer of M/Y NJORD, the world’s ultimate private residential superyacht….

Jean-Louis Stutzmann (image courtesy of Fiona Sanderson)

He’s one of the world’s foremost marine designers, but when it comes to discussing his first moves into the industry, Jean-Louis Stutzmann is remarkably candid. “I got into the marine design industry because there was an opening at my local shipbuilding company,” he says. “I started working in the design office of the shipyard but it appeared to be a dying industry back in those days in the UK. However, I stayed in the marine industry for a few years before studying for my engineering degree. My passion took me back to design so I subsequently took my Masters degree in interior design – although as it turned out, my engineering knowledge has been more than useful.”

Stutzmann has been witness to several key changes in the industry over the years, such as “the increased design, sustainability and technological standards of materials and finishes that are available today, which allow for greater creativity and expression. Also, the use of CGI, which lets you see what you may miss on a flat drawing sheet and check on colour balance and harmony.”

Today, Stutzmann is a noted interior designer with an extensive career in ocean liner, superyacht and luxury residential design, and therefore an obvious choice to be involved with the M/Y NJORD project. Described as ‘the next generation of superyacht,’ the designers behind M/Y NJORD are re-writing the rules, by taking design and technology to new heights, combining the ultimate in luxury travel with research and philanthropy. “I have been involved with this project from the beginning,” Stutzmann tells us, adding that the project, understandably, is “….far more involved than one can ever imagine – but it is also one of the most enjoyable and satisfying projects, where every challenge has actually created a better product.”

Jean-Louis Stutzmann

Speaking of challenges, there have been several throughout Stutzmann’s storied career. However, he’s quick to point out that all challenges are surmountable, and most often lead to the work of which he’s most proud. “When I initially worked in the design office of a shipyard, there was a small cargo ship that looked as though it was on its way to becoming an ‘ugly duckling,’” he smiles fondly. “I worked on the development of it – and by the end of the project, everyone liked it.”

Stutzmann is similarly proud of the whole design ethos he has developed for M/Y NJORD. “I have put a lot of thought into the design of this private residential yacht to achieve a functional, efficient layout of the deck plans,” he says. “The whole yacht will be built with a very high standard of materials and I wish to have a considered thread of elegant continuity throughout. There will be no hotel lobby, no cruise ship type atrium, and all residents’ guests will be personally escorted on board. There will always be an elegant and comfortable feel from the moment one steps on board, with a design that is not tiring on the eye – a design that will make you think, ‘I’m home.’”

Working alongside Stutzmann to create this maritime masterpiece is Espen Øino International, the world’s leading superyacht design company. Every detail will be meticulously designed to enhance the residents’ onboard experience. As well as being both spacious and elegantly appointed, each of the 118 private residences will boast a private terrace, floor-to-ceiling picture windows and sea views from every bedroom and living area.

An example of the interior of a private residence aboard M/Y NJORD overlooking Sydney

“The interior produces the exterior profile and the design brief for the residences and outside views, which has eliminated the familiar superyacht image of a high point cascading down to a long hull,” Stutzmann explains. “The silhouette, the bow and the stern aspects could be manipulated, but we needed to add styling lines to the central mass. Discussions with Espen Øino and Paolo Barbuscia were mutually understood, and they created a distinctive dissection of this central mass along with styling lines overall. When you become involved with passenger vessels, the steel comes first, and you have to work around it. It can be quite satisfying to achieve a layout that works well, when at first it appeared complex due to limitations caused by structure, service duct requirements and code compliance, for instance.”

As part of discussions, Stutzmann has placed a huge emphasis on the environmental concerns raised by designing a ship that will make annual circumnavigations of the globe. “With the environment in mind, together with the values behind the M/Y NJORD project, we have followed strict adherence to environmental requirements and integrated different types of fuel including battery power, with an additional budgetary allowance to accommodate further developments than are available at present with electrical power, as this technology increases over the build period.”

Quite aside from the environment, there are also the considerations that Stutzmann and the whole team have made in respect to M/Y NJORD’s crew quarters. In an industry-first, all crew members will have their own, personal room (the industry-wide standard is shared accommodation). Ocean Residences Development – the developers behind M/Y NJORD – have stressed that crew welfare is of utmost importance, seeing as it is their experience that will be relied upon to anticipate each guest’s needs. With a proposed 2:1 guest-to-crew ratio, this is clearly an innovative proposition. “This ensures the best possible service and operations by the crew,” Stutzmann says when explaining the decision for individual crew cabins. “All crew accommodation will be well designed by us.”

Interior rendering of M/Y NJORD (image courtesy of FM Architettura)

Whilst the wider industry doesn’t adopt this practice as standard, Stutzmann is hopeful that other companies will copy M/Y NJORD’s ground-breaking approach. “All shipyards have their own builders’ standards for crew accommodation for merchant shipping, and this has passed down over into cruise shipping,” he explains, “but I hope that what we wish to achieve for crew accommodation aboard M/Y NJORD will be noted by cruise companies to improve their crew conditions and appearance.”

For his own work, Stutzmann draws inspiration from the natural world around him. “Nature is my cathedral,” he enthuses, “and flowers are my greatest luxury. Flowers are all so very different for the same achievement and have so much beauty by many aspects of evolution to attract pollination, as indeed evolution itself is a fascination.”

As a further source of inspiration, Stutzmann holds English interior designer David Hicks in high regard. “I thought David Hicks held a very acute sense of multi-colour balance, all working together,” Stutzmann reveals. “His work helped the further evolution of manufacturers’ fabrics and carpets, even though today there are many neutralised approaches to colour in interior design. Combining colours in both fabrics and carpets – as with mixing colours for artwork – is quite a talent to be really appreciated.”

His appreciation for anything “that has been created by someone that turns out exceptionally well” is evident in the way he describes the things he talks about – from interior design, to architecture, to furniture. “I have been blessed with an ability to work with different mediums for creating artwork and working with wood species to make furniture items. Both require much concentration and focus, which ebbs away all other thoughts. Success in mixing colours and tight exquisite joints in furniture construction gives great satisfaction in the finished piece.”

With a planned delivery date of 2024, all eyes are currently on Stutzmann’s work with M/Y NJORD, and the great satisfaction that the finished piece will give its residents. M/Y NJORD is surely set to be the finest address, everywhere in the world.

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