You’ve seen them online: the far-out, wildly futuristic concept designs from carmakers and yacht designers that look more ready to fly than to hit the road or the water. A handful actually get built as prototypes for trade shows, to tantalize the public with ideas about what may be possible.
But there is a difference between a truly outlandish cartoon and a viable, buildable concept. Established superyacht builders such as Lürssen, Feadship, Abeking & Rasmussen and Oceanco focus on those—and at the most recent Monaco Yacht Show, Oceanco showcased a particularly eye-catching concept yacht with swirling, sculptural, asymmetrical lines.
The 295-foot (90-meter) Project Kairos concept is a first-time collaboration between Oceanco and Italian design firm Pininfarina, with technical design and engineering by U.K.-based Lateral Naval Architects.
“The exterior and interior styling of yachts has evolved over time, but we still witness similar technical formats and standards that are rooted in general proportions, forms and gross tonnage,” says Marcel Onkenhout, CEO of Oceanco. “The result is stagnation in innovation.”
As part of its Oceanco NXT initiative to build and design for future generations, Oceanco has been discussing ideas with automotive, aviation and industrial designers, as well as residential and commercial architects, regarding all aspects of yacht design and construction.
“The word Kairos is taken from the Greek word for the right time, season or opportunity,” says Paolo Pininfarina, chairman of the Pininfarina Group. “In this instance, meaning the time associated with being energized by possibility for the potential of the future.”
Kevin Rice, Pininfarina’s chief creative officer, says the idea was to steer away from a “pointy bow” and “flat stern,” so as not to emphasize going forward or, for that matter, going anywhere.
“The idea is to live more in the moment,” Rice says. “We approached Kairos as the destination itself.”
The philosophy behind the concept is for Kairos to let the owner be in three places at once: a European marketplace or piazza, a New York skyscraper and the sea.
“People are very global today and have many sides to their personalities,” he says. “Let’s just say: urban, suburban and rural. Jet travel is increasingly stressful. Aboard Kairos, you might not feel compelled to travel elsewhere, as Kairos offers multiple experiences, all within your own private arena.”
Arrivals are in the piazza, which he describes as “the community gathering place, the heart of life aboard to which all entry points lead.” The space is open but can be secured from weather via glass walls. Asymmetric shapes, transparent structures and a lack of physical barriers are intended to inspire openness and social interaction with no boundaries.
Inside the yacht, there is a soaring atrium reminiscent of a skyscraper. The communal living area takes up all of the main deck’s real estate. The guest staterooms are on the lower deck, with balconies for a direct connection to the sea. For a scenic overlook, guests can take the elevator above the upper deck to the panoramic balcony, or, in building terms, to the rooftop.
“A 360-degree approach to design at once connects you to the sea below, to the light above and to the spaces and people beside you,” Pininfarina says. “It nourishes your curiosity on an instinctive level and encourages you to explore new experiences and perspectives.”
Pininifarina’s ideas may be lofty, but Lateral Naval Architects has a down-to-earth plan for the yacht’s electric hybrid propulsion. The primary machinery space can be accommodated within a single-tier compartment. This streamlining offers technical benefits such as weight reduction and flexibility in space distribution and allows more latitude for Pininfarina’s exterior and interior design and layout ideas.
Kairos is a study in imaginative thinking that’s intended to appeal to creative thinkers. That includes not just clients, but also designers, builders and engineers. The point of creating a yacht concept is to titillate, and this one certainly does.
Oceanco rolled out its Oceanco NXT strategic platform in 2020 with the tagline: “The future is zero. The future is now.”
The technical narrative for Project Kairos is based on this belief in zero. Kairos is designed with an all-electric propulsion and energy system. The so-called e-Hybrid system incorporates batteries as the primary means of energy for the varying power demands of hotel, propulsion and maneuvering loads.
Lateral Naval Architects uses the term “local zero” to mean something different from net-zero emissions. Roy explains that achieving ultimate zero is a journey that will follow an energy transition he likens to a timeline with (perhaps) diesel-electric hybrid at one end and ultimate zero at the far end, and a whole range of intermediate solutions along the way. For Kairos, local zero means that 75 percent of a day on board can be spent in zero-emission and silent-operating mode.
“Diesel generators are provided for battery charging and high-speed cruising, selected free from the constraints of a conventional diesel-electric and purely on the basis of efficiency and energy density,” says James Roy, managing director of Lateral Naval Architects.
“The e-Hybrid architecture permits extensive operation with no noise, lower vibrations and zero local emissions. We cannot realistically talk about net zero or ultimate zero with Kairos, but we can talk about local zero.”
This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue.