Solar and sustainable energy, discover the winter gondola by French designer Philippe Starck for Venice
Philippe Starck imagined a solar-powered and sustainable gondola as part of an initiative to encourage Venetians to use design as a tool for innovation. His “Dream of Winter Gondola” is a contemporary take on the traditional flat-bottomed rowing boats that are so much part of Venice’s charm.
The illustrious French designer is known for his industrial products, his household objects, his furniture and his numerous interiors of hotels and restaurants around the world. It is a unique signature with a courageous, mostly rebellious approach to design, a playful and increasingly ethical touch.
The gondola project was commissioned by Venezia World Capital della Sostenibilità, the branch of Ca ‘Foscari University that develops business ideas and technological solutions to combat climate change – something sorely felt in a growing city. sinking in the face of an impending environmental crisis. The initiative also has the support of the Veneto region and the Italian government.
Starck designed his visionary ship as a winter gondola with a small room in its center. The concept is not meant to be realistic, but rather an exploration of new ways to build and power the gondola. All the materials considered are therefore durable, high-tech and durable. For example, the forcola (the traditional oar pole) is made from compressed bamboo, while the shell and oar are made from black arachnid laminated seaweed bio-resin. During this time, the nacelle is propelled in an ecological way thanks to a mini electric turbine powered by solar energy and the hydrogenerator.
Intrigued to understand this somewhat atypical project in more detail, I contacted the designer.
Nargess Banks: Why did you take the gondola?
Philippe Starck: I have a lot of admiration and respect for the gondola. It is one of the most complex boats in the world because its design is completely asymmetrical but nevertheless its weight is perfectly balanced and can go straight even in the most difficult conditions. It is magic; it is pure magic.
How did you choose these unusual durable materials and textures? And do they help create a unique experience for passengers aboard the winter gondola?
The experience will be unique because it will reflect the elegance of intelligence. Every material here serves a purpose. I used environmentally friendly materials like the arachnid because it is the strongest and lightest material on earth. This can help the gondolier in practicing his art. The organic resin made from algae is the link of the arachnid.
What about bamboo?
Compressed bamboo laminated for forcola was chosen for the extreme resistance and rigidity of the material, as well as for its absolute indifference to humidity which allows no maintenance and lifelong durability. In addition, bamboo is the most ecological wood because it grows very quickly without harming (the planet).
Have you questioned the overall construction of the nacelle or respected the traditional asymmetrical shape?
The heel of the gondola is naturally twisted and unstable, giving the necessary maneuverability in the narrow canals of Venice. But that same positive instability may not be very comfortable for the passengers. So, in order to provide comfort when passengers get on and off the gondola, I decided to add a small gyroscope, which is an easy way to control stability without adding weight. This gyroscope is powered by a mixture of solar energy and a rotating turbine – if the gondolier wishes. At the same time, it helps propel the nacelle and, when the nacelle is not in use, creates tidal energy.
Oh I like that it has multiple functions. As Venice experiences the impacts of climate change more urgently than other cities, how do you see concepts like “Dream of Winter Gondola” helping designers find solutions?
I’ve always tried to come up with solutions, but I can’t always find them. Most of my life has been lived in a materialistic society that can only give birth to the materialist – solutions that are obviously obsolete and doomed to failure because the future is dematerialization.
Is there hope?
It is in our DNA to create and build. It would be philosophically and biologically unacceptable to stop our creativity. But today we are faced with a paradox and we must act to save our planet: decrease when our nature forces us to increase. The solution is positive decrease, that is to say reducing our production but developing our creativity. We need to find ways to consume less; grow our way. We must end the debate, understand our evolution and try to see further.
I’m interested to hear your desires and hopes as we come out of this pandemic and start having more open conversations about climate change?
I have great confidence in human beings. The human being is an absolute genius. We always find solutions, but not always at the right time. I hope that the generation after tomorrow, which will grow up in a dematerialized world and face even more ecological urgency, will be totally dedicated to these solutions.
The 3D drawing of Philippe Starck’s “Dream of Winter Gondola” is now on display at Ca ‘Foscari University.
See Oceanco Kairos from Pininfarina, a yacht designed for meditation and contemplation and – at the opposite end of the spectrum but perhaps offering an even more meditative experience – to get away on the old-fashioned hand-built wood Adirondack guide boat. See also what yacht designers Bannenberg & Rowell tell about the post-hedonistic future of yachts.