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Dream of Winter Gondola, Philippe Starck’s Modern Take on the Traditional Boat
Phrases like “why fix something if it isn’t broken” and “no need to reinvent the wheel” put a damper on the creative spirit. It’s a good thing, then, that Philippe Starck doesn’t seem to pay them any mind.

Dream of Winter Gondola, Philippe Starck’s Modern Take on the Traditional Boat

Dream of Winter Gondola, a concept for a motor-assisted gondola by Philippe StarckDream of Winter Gondola, a concept for a motor-assisted gondola by Philippe StarckPhilippe Starck, one of the most prolific and versatile designers of modern timesDream of Winter Gondola, a concept for a motor-assisted gondola by Philippe StarckSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the worldSailing Yacht A, delivered in 2017 to Andrey Melnichenko, remains the biggest and most beautiful sail-assisted motor yacht in the world
Philippe Starck is a French designer widely known as one of the most prolific and multi-faceted designers of modern times. Over his impressive career, he’s done anything from home décor, to gadgets and smartphones, architecture and sailing boats. He is incredibly versatile and innovative, and his designs all breathe the same styling: deceivingly clean lines that bespeak a rebellious spirit.

Starck’s motto is that “evolution is in everything – but only we can control our evolution.” He believes in things that can change our lives for the better and, just as importantly, he believes that things must change. His Dream of Winter Gondola project fits the bill on that last account.

It may seem pointless to try and “reinvent the wheel,” but Starck has good reason for doing it. The aforementioned project takes on the traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian boat that’s been around for centuries and gives it a modern twist, as a means to highlight the vital sustainable development challenges Venice is struggling with. These include environmental and social issues, over-tourism, and depopulation.

VeniSIA is a corporate accelerator program held at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, whose goal is to inspire local creatives and students to pursue creative actions and strategies for innovation, which may end up tackling some of these issues. Starck is lending his powerful name to the cause, with the Dream of Winter Gondola.

The name of the project says all there is to know about this modern gondola: it is one that can be used all year round. It is also a “dream,” in that, in developing it, Starck was more focused on how he could improve what he calls the perfect and “most complex” boat, than he was on whether it was actually possible.

For those not familiar with this kind of boat, a gondola is flat-bottomed and has elevated high ends. It is propelled by a gondolier, who uses an oar to row. The boat is asymmetrical, with the gondolier standing aft. According to Starck, who has lived on the Venetian island of Burano for 50 years, a gondola is also complex because “its weight is perfectly balanced and it can go straight even in the hardest conditions.”

This made his task all the more difficult.

His Winter Gondola no longer has need for a full-time gondolier: after all, if you’re going to take this on the water in winter, there’s no sense in having him freeze his hands off. Instead, there’s a solar-powered mini electric turbine that propels the boat, with the two occupants sheltered in a tiny cabin in the center, under a sliding roof made of vacuum-molded gorilla glass. In warm weather, with a gondolier on hand, the mini electric turbine would only offer assistance.

Starck doesn’t say it, but the idea of enclosing the cabin in a gondola is not new. Back in the day, some gondolas had something called “felze,” enclosed cabins with louvered shutters (the OG Venetian blinds), for privacy and protection from the elements. This would be similar, and just as fancy: guests would sit on a small sustainable leather bench.

A gyroscope would be added at the hull to increase stability and reduce swaying. “[It would be] powered by a mixture of solar energy and a rotative turbine if the gondolier wishes,” Starck explains to DeZeen. “It gives the possibility, at the same time, to propel the gondola and, when the gondola is not used, to create tidal energy.”

The hull of the boat is made of laminated compressed bamboo, which is very durable, strong and with incredible water-resistance. Starck says this choice of material would basically make the boat last a lifetime and be completely maintenance-free.

“It is the same untouchable icon, the same iconic silhouette but washed by the time and deeply, structurally modern by the technology,” Starck says of his concept. A 3D drawing of the Winter Gondola is currently on display at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice’s Hub of Strategy Innovation.

Editor's note: Gallery also shows photos of Sailing Yacht A, another Philippe Starck design (this time, real).

 Download attachment: Dream of Winter Gondola press release (PDF)

 
 
 
 
 

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