YachtTalk Special 3: Akira design special with Harrison Eidsgaard
The third episode of Heesen’s YachtTalk Specials transported us to the riverside design studio of London-based Harrison Eidsgaard. Co-founder Ben Harrison and director Richard Whitehouse walked host Charlotte Kan through an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour to share their thoughts, insights and inspiration for creating the ultimate yacht interior.
Harrison Eisdgaard and Heesen first collaborated on 51-metre, full-custom Irisha, which was delivered in 2018. With both the interior and exterior designed by Harrison Eisdgaard, it was a gateway to future joint endeavours, including two new-build projects currently under construction at Heesen’s facilities in the Netherlands – 57-metre Akira and 60-metre SkyFall.
Akira is the first model in Heesen’s new 5700 Aluminium class and is built with a Fast Displacement Hull Form. “Unusually, Heesen approached us very early on in the process,” says Harrison. “The aim was to bring us in as interior designers earlier than normal to have the opportunity to develop the GA in collaboration with their engineering team. This has led to some interesting and positive developments in terms of how the boat is set out today.”
Some of Akira’s special features include a dedicated beach club area and an atrium staircase that allows for the incorporation of a lift in the central shaft. “The lift is quite a challenge from an engineering standpoint,” says Whitehouse, “but also keeps the aesthetic pleasing.”
Both elements echo the many evolving lifestyle preferences that owners have, such as enjoying indoor/outdoor spaces, watersports and fitness. Duality is another onboard theme where owners look to have a yacht that delivers an all-inclusive family experience with entertainment areas while simultaneously promoting privacy and seclusion. “It’s the ability to have the doors open while drifting from one place to another,” says Whitehouse.
Design in motion
Part of the design process today is creating more of a home, adds Harrison: “A yacht is not just somewhere to go to for a week’s holiday, it’s somewhere owners might live or work. We’re witnessing a lot of residential influences, with relaxed interiors that are reflective of their lifestyle and this outdoor way of living.”
The Harrison Eidsgaard studio descends from what Harrison describes as “the Bannenberg pyramid”, but when it comes to a recognisable design signature it sways toward the contemporary . “That’s partly reflective of our own preferences and personalities, however, part of our job as designers is to listen to the owner and their requirements, and the skill is in guiding them through the customised process and making them feel as though they have ownership of that design.”
Whitehouse supports this view, adding that there are many layers to design. “The primary elements are when embellishments can be made and detailed touches that illustrate a flair for design can be introduced.” A good example of this is the credenza aboard Akira. “The secondary elements,” continues Whitehouse, “such as wall panelling, exist in the background and form the foundations of an idea, and it’s how you marry the two that dictates a design’s success.”
Build in progress
Akira is scheduled to be delivered in 2024. The interior styling is virtually complete, though the technical drawing package is still in development. The next stage is for the design drawings to be transferred into working construction drawings ready for production.
“Another important part, which is where we’re at right now, is the development with Heesen and their outfitters on the choice of materials,” says Harrison. “We have to go through the process of refining all the woods to be featured on board, for example, making the physical samples, testing them, and readdressing all our fabrics to ensure they sit together harmoniously. This is required to give a definitive specification for all interior finishes.”
Some of the finishes being used on board include ombré – the blending of one colour hue to another – and specialised plaster finishes.
Making history with tomorrow in mind
Tom-Erik Buis, Technical Sales Engineer at Heesen, joined the conversation by video link to discuss developments on Akira’s build. He highlighted the yacht’s ability to carry recognisable Heesen DNA – fast, lightweight, with large windows, quality construction and sleek styling – while being the first in a new future-proofed class.
“The most challenging aspect of the project is combining a shallow draft with high speed and still being able to create a rigid and solid construction in aluminium,” he says.
Click here to watch the full episode
In the previous episode of Yacht Talk, Jonathan Beckett of Burgess posed Harrison Eidsgaard the following question: “If you were not a yacht designer but wanted to work in the yachting industry, what would your favourite job be?”
Harrison replies: “I so love the creative process, so if I couldn’t be a designer I would want to be part of the manufacturing process, the building of the yachts. So, perhaps working at a shipyard. I think I’d be quite good as a welder!”
Whitehouse answers: “I would rather be at sea, at the helm as a captain, provided I could reach that position! I feel the operational aspect of being in charge of a yacht is really interesting.”
The instalment of YachtTalk Specials will be at British superyacht design studio Winch Design and will see Charlotte Kan in conversation with yacht designer Jim Dixon.
When invited to ask Dixon one pressing question, Harrison responded: “In today’s age, what do you find the most challenging aspect of the yacht design process?”
Tune in to find out!