A portrait of the grand seigneur of yacht design and his collaboration with Philippe Starck and Sir Norman Foster
Martin Francis, Architect for Legends2020-12-17T12:48:01+01:00
Yachting | 2021
It is quite a coincidence. We are standing on the car park of Martin Francis in the hills of Grasse and outside on the sea one of his designs is passing by. It’s the motor yacht “A”, which for some yacht aficionados – to put it crudely – looks like an iron on the water, while the rest, probably the other 50 percent, love the long bow with the negative stem and the superstructure, which somehow seems inspired by submarines. Francis supplied the technical design, i.e. the seaworthy construction, for the look, client Andrey Melnichenko engaged the multi-talented Philippe Starck.
All this takes its origin in Martin Francis’ childhood. His mother is an artist, his father a photographer, and both parents are very much involved in their private lives. The father develops pictures at home, the mother creates all kinds of toys for the two boys and makes them in her own workshop. “I learned early on”, says Francis, “how a mere idea can become a product”. After studying at Central Saint Martins, as the youngest student ever, his career then slowly takes off. He draws four different 25-metre-sailing-yachts and gets in touch with George Nicholson of Camper & Nicholson, a broker par excellence, who engages him for “Eco” – a slim and above all fast design, 73-metres-long and equipped with a seaplane in the stern, among other things.
Eco (now Zeus)
Even though construction is taking place at the once renowned address Blohm+Voss, the implementation of Francis’ ideas is not without its problems. Hardly anyone can produce the curved windows, the engine causes problems – but Francis manages all facets. He is designer, project manager and owner’s representative all in one. Azcarraga transfers millions of euros to him and Francis should simply contact him if he needs more. What nowadays requires at least three specialists, Francis does in personal union. To be able to cross the Atlantic with “Eco”, the owner buys a small tanker, the “Eco Supporter”, which is stationed in the middle of the ocean to refuel “Eco” halfway across the ocean.
500 GT Explorer
Francis is now in business and shortly afterwards he and Jack Setton build the 59-metre-long “Senses”. He equips it with an armada of toys and gives it a construction that makes “Senses” – now owned by Google founder Larry Page – suitable for any territory. It is a time when Francis is very versatile. He works at RFR, an architecture and engineering firm, he founded with Peter Rice. RFR advises, for example, on the construction of the French National Museum of Science and on the construction of the glass pyramid of the Louvre.
Antarctica: design for a British research station.
South of France: pool architecture à la Francis.
Broken Jug: This 45-ton sculpture was designed by Francis together with Frank Stella. It was produced at the CMN shipyard in Cherbourg.
With the sports car legend, the Italian Sea Group is launching a 60-knot yacht as a limited edition
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