|Jon Bannenberg: 1929-2002|
Part 2: Adorned with radically unconventional angles and ultra-modern lines...
By Diane M. Byrne — August 2002
While that project led to other marine contracts, notably a number of guest suites and the two-level public room aboard the QE2 in 1967, it's remarkable to realize that Bannenberg wasn't widely recognized until the launch of Carinthia VI at Germany's Lürssen Shipyard in 1972, when his rule-breaking originality turned the yachting world on its ear. Commissioned by German retailing tycoon Helmut Horten, the now-famous 233-footer was adorned with radically unconventional angles and ultra-modern lines that stood in marked contrast to the virtual sea of conservative, traditional-looking profiles that were being turned out by the world's top designers. Her sheer size was also extraordinary--Horten had to have the wall at the Cannes marina where he always kept his yachts extended to accommodate her. (Kept in immaculate condition by Horten's widow, Carinthia VI has gone on to become an icon in the yachting world, even inspiring clothing magnate Leslie Wexner to commission Bannenberg to design his 316-foot Limitless.)
Word of Bannenberg's talents spread, and soon other extraordinarily wealthy individuals commissioned him to create avant-garde masterpieces. Three of the best-known ground-breakers were the 282-foot Nabila, 151-foot Azteca, and same-size Paraiso. Built by Benetti for Adnan Khashoggi in 1980, Nabila became as notorious as her owner, due to her theatrical lighting and funnels that extended out from the side of the uppermost deck like embryonic wings. Paraiso and Azteca, commissioned simultaneously by Mexican media magnate Emilio Azcarraga Milmo and launched in 1983 from Feadship's Van Lent yard and in 1984 from Feadship's De Vries yard, respectively, caused a stir before they hit the water. If the yachting world had thought the lines Bannenberg gave to Carinthia VI were out of the ordinary, imagine their shock when they saw a design that called for the main hull form to be taken up to the top deck.
In fact, it was Azteca's very design that inspired Malcolm Forbes to commission his 151-foot The Highlander from Feadship. At The Highlander's launch, Bannenberg reflected on the concept behind the high hull sides. "What it is, really, what I'm trying to do, gets back to the classic superstructure look. That's really the key to the whole thing. To somehow increase the hull and still keep it sleek and make the superstructure less. It's kind of really all those beautiful old classic boats everyone loves. It's just a hull with a very little deckhouse and a funnel.... This length yacht in the past would have had probably a tenth of the volume of this boat. You're always fighting that."
Something else Bannenberg successfully fought was the concept that a yacht is the result of three separate forces: the yard, naval architect, and interior designer, with the latter two being in-house employees of the yard. He believed that each yacht was a complete design that could be conceived by an independent designer, one in which the hull, superstructure, and interior all must complement one another, and one in which the overall motif even extended to stationery and dinnerware created exclusively for the vessel. No wonder that as the yacht projects grew, so did his office, hiring young designers who went on to become masters in their own right: Andrew Winch, Terence Disdale, Donald Starkey, Tim Heywood, and others.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.