#humansofyachting – Anna Borla
The Italian yacht designer on her lifelong love of yachts – and the challenges of the job she relishes.
“I grew up in the north of Italy in Piedmonte, nowhere near the water! In fact, I was probably closer to the mountains than the sea, but we had a house in Sardinia, and my family always took us sailing there in the summer holidays. I would see all these beautiful megayachts floating around in the Mediterranean, and somewhere over the course of those holidays, I decided I wanted to be a yacht designer. I just love the water. When I am sailing, I feel relaxed and free and happy – my passion comes from that too.
I graduated in product design and then I did a masters in yacht design at Milan Polytechnic. The masters was great because we got to have lessons with some of the most important yacht designers, like Andrea Vallicelli, Ivana Porfiri and others. After that, we were able to do an internship in a studio. I did mine in Matteo Picchio’s studio in Milan and was lucky enough to take part in lots of projects, including the conversion of a US Navy 1940s tug boat that we transformed into a beautiful superyacht. It was an important time for me because I took part in everything from the sketches and the meetings with the owner to the construction in the shipyard.
I still love these sorts of conversion projects; the idea of taking something that is disused and giving it new life. The world of yacht design is fascinating because it is in constant evolution and new innovations are happening all the time. I think now is the time for sustainability in design. The main incentive for me is to find a way to blend form and function when it comes to sustainability in superyachts. They need to be aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly all at once.
I am really proud of the last two concepts I did; Black Heron and HIDE. I designed Black Heron in collaboration with Oceanco as part of this year’s Boat International young designer competition [Anna is a finalist]. There were lots of rules I had to stick to, but the main idea was to refit an old-style yacht and transform it into a modern superyacht. I created more volume on both the stern and the bow, allowing space for a spa and a sports area and used lots of natural and recyclable materials for the interiors, including wooden floors and ceilings.
For HIDE, which got a lot of media attention, I used huge, reflective windows that mirrored the landscape as I wanted the yacht to blend in with whatever environment it was sailing through. I also designed it with a flat superstructure which meant that I could use huge photovoltaic [a type of solar power] panels. There was also plenty of storage for lithium batteries and I used eco-friendly materials for the interior, too, including furniture made from recycled textiles.
I am both a product and yacht designer and I think that the two practices complement each other. I can design anything from a lamp to a megayacht – I like design with simplicity, I love clean lines and simple shapes and I use that approach no matter what I am designing. One of the challenges with yacht design is that so many of the spaces, especially those near the hull, are curved. There is also the challenge of finding storage space – but I love solving these sorts of problems. The bonus with a yacht is that you get to test the final product in a beautiful environment.
If I had a superyacht of my own, I would sail it back to Sardinia to remember those holidays that inspired me all those years ago – and then perhaps I would head on to the USA. Miami is next on my list.