A design competition hosted by Riva in 1984 changed Mauro Micheli’s life forever. Micheli (above left) had a strong design background, having attended art school in his teen years and then the prestigious arts-oriented Brera Academy in Milan, Italy. But yacht design wasn’t a career consideration until he won the Riva contest, joining its technical office as an assistant. Ten years later, Micheli began consultancy work exclusively for Riva, co-founding Officina Italiana Design with Sergio Beretta (pictured at right). Officina Italiana Design has been responsible for the design of every modern Riva—and now some new Sanlorenzo models, too. A fan of classic and contemporary art, even car design, Micheli still marvels at where the he and the studio are today. “Sometimes I even think that what I do every day is really odd,” he tells us. In this Megayacht News Leadership Series interview, Micheli relates what has pushed him the hardest, what he enjoys best, and what he thinks of the hopeful yet unproven designers trying to break into the industry.
MegayachtNews.com: What do you enjoy the most about the yacht design process: Is it coming up with ideas of your own to present to the public, or is it working directly with a client to make their vision a reality?
Mauro Micheli: I like in particular the starting phase, and I love to see the finished boat. Ideas come at the right moment, without a scheme. It is the instinct that drives ideas and the everyday training in your job. Ideas comes from who you are, from what you have learned day by day, year after year, working on projects and on a particular brand (knowing it deeply and trying to keep alive all the traditions that are inside that brand). The job of a designer is also to try to translate into the project all the possibilities offered by technology and research. The client, as far as little boats like Riva are concerned, is the shipyard, and we do pay a lot of attention to what they are looking for. But speaking about the new Riva 50-meter, of course, I have to listen carefully to the desire of the shipyard, and then match its guidelines with all the new ideas that will come from the owners, who will co-participate with us to create the interior. Of course we will try to help them translate in reality their wishes.
MegayachtNews.com: What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Mauro Micheli: Aquarama has been my biggest challenge. I had the task to reinterpret the lines of this successful boat after 40 years. She is the most famous boat in the world, I would say an iconic boat in the international boating industry. Working again on that yacht, it was very risky, but the result is in front of us: Aquariva and Rivarama.
MegayachtNews.com: What design trends in yachting do you think have staying power, and what trends do you think are more like passing fads?
Mauro Micheli: In the boating industry, there have been many examples; for instance, the goiter boat (from the Ligurian tradition) has been a recently passing fashion among those who wanted a small boat. Some open boats have reflected more a hedonistic lifestyle, too… for example, there was a time in which the flying bridge was small and everybody wanted to crowd the space with lots of things.
MegayachtNews.com: Is there a design feature you have not yet incorporated, or a size of yacht you have not tackled, that you would like to work on?
Mauro Micheli: No. In reality, I would really like to design my own boat… very extreme in her lines, minimal, without any redundancy. I find boats a bit over-designed. I like simplicity. As far as the size is concerned, with Riva we are designing yachts up to 80 meters. But I do prefer to design small boats. I like to see the boats I have designed (like the Aquariva) with distinguished elements even if they are serial products. I really like them. If you land in a marina with your Aquariva, everybody looks at you, and you are pleased about it. Little boats have their glamour. But I look forward also to seeing my first 50-meter megayacht be launched.
MegayachtNews.com: The convertible top of the Riva 88 Florida, like that of an automobile, is far different than other yachts. Did the idea originate in your studio?
Mauro Micheli: It comes from Officina Italiana Design in close cooperation with Ferretti Group’s Product Strategy Committee, and the Group’s Engineering Department. The Convertible Top system makes the yacht convertible, as the word says, i.e. capable of shifting from an open to a coupé configuration and vice versa by automatically operating the hardtop that can cover the pilot station in the cockpit.
MegayachtNews.com: You are now working with Sanlorenzo. What is the collaboration like so far? Does the shipyard have specific ideas it wants to incorporate, or is it relying more on your ideas?
Mauro Micheli: It has been a great collaboration so far, and I think that Massimo Perotti is a very good, open-minded businessman. It has been really a pleasure to work with him. Officina Italiana Design was commissioned by Sanlorenzo to redesign its range of fiberglass planing yachts. This produced two new models: the SL76 and the SL86 (currently in build). Both craft are very similar in concept but differ in dimensions, resulting in different space solutions. Sanlorenzo gave us a briefing, but at the same time, they give us freedom to elaborate on our personal proposal. We have developed a long list of design innovations for the two models, most of which focused on optimizing spaces and volumes. The results set new benchmarks for the yard’s planing range. We are looking forward to seeing the first boat realized.
MegayachtNews.com: A number of young, hopeful designers have released concept designs and gotten publicity in a number of mainstream media and yachting media. Yet, many of these designs cannot be built in accordance with regulations, and even current technology. Do you think this is a problem, or do you think everyone should freely publicize their ideas?
Mauro Micheli: Absolutely! Why not? Although technology helps everybody a lot, and not always behind a very good 3D program is there a good designer (especially if you are free in the project and you are not bound to regulations), there are indeed many good young designers, and they merit all our attention. I think it is a good thing to help them and support their capabilities, giving them a chance. I personally look always at young designers’ concepts, and if I needed new designers, I would certainly give him/her a chance in my studio.