Interviews

Decades of Design: Cristiano Gatto

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With offices in Italy, France and the United Kingdom, Cristiano Gatto Design Team has delivered 189 projects under the leadership of principal Cristiano Gatto.

Having graduated in June 1992 at the age of 21, the Italian has more than 26 years of experience and has designed the interiors of 80m Elements, 50m Crazy Me and 50m Home among many others. With a number of projects underway, Gatto takes the focus of this week’s Decades of Design feature.

Who inspired you to become a designer?

When I was a student at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, the contemporary avant-gardes cast a spell on me. Industrial designers such as Vico Magistretti, Ettore Sottsass and later on Philippe Stark, a group of artists who developed fresh and often very surprising ideas, deeply changed the relationship between design — considered as art for art sake — and industrial design. The latter made artistic products available to an almost unlimited number of users. It was these creative minds that urged me to start my investigation into the relationship between art (namely sculpture) and industrial design.

Was your design course what you expected it to be and what were the highlights?

Yes, it was. It gave me the opportunity to enhance and improve my artistic skills. When I was a student my dream was to influence society with my art (and it still is!). I believe that living in a beautiful environment makes people and their lives better — it makes you feel better, and maybe even improve your thinking.

What was your first major project after graduating?

It was the interior of the Mochi Craft Sonic. This was my first project as an interior yacht stylist under the attentive supervision of Carlo Nuvolari.

When and what made you dedicate your career to the design of superyachts?

I was photocopying a series of papers for a friend and while waiting I started to draw. Dan Lenard passed by, saw my sketches and asked me to work in their brand new studio. The rest is history. Nine years of fundamental experience for me.

How does your artistic background influence your designs?

My artistic background as a sculptor influences the way I approach a project deeply. Somebody once said that I sculpt spaces and that is what I do in my mind. Sculpture is about proportions, matter and light. And I approach my projects in the same way.

Looking back over your career so far, what have been the highlights?

The interior of ISA’s 470 n.3 Ocean Victory, which was a very complete and complicated project; Icon Yacht's Midlandia; I Nova, which I designed from A to Z; 80m Elements; Heesen’s Crazy Me and Home.

Of the projects you have worked on, which one are you most proud of?

In one way I’d say all 189, because with all of them I learned something new, I discovered something or I experienced something. However, if you were to ask for a shortlist, it would be the projects in my previous answer.

Has there been a yacht by another design studio that has really caught your eye, and if so why?

There are so many masters and (I’m shy to say) colleagues whose work I truly appreciate! Terence Disdale Design, Winch Design and Christian Liagre are just a few to mention. Two projects that fascinated me recently were Lobanov's Jubilee — a timeless yet contemporary masterpiece — and Grace E's interior by Remi Tessier. Both designs are clean and simple in their great complexity.

Which of the projects you’ve worked on do you wish you could go back to and work on again?

All of them! When I reconsider a project I did in the past with fresh eyes, I mean when the creative emotion of it has settled down, I can see the pros and cons about the choices I made with a different perspective.

What are the main challenges for a superyacht design studio in the market today?

The main challenge for a yacht designer, today and always, is to maintain their intellectual honesty. The temptation to replicate certain winning clichés is to be avoided.

What can we expect from Cristiano Gatto Design over the coming years?

We are working on lots of new projects, both in the yachting industry and real estate sector. We will continue our fruitful collaborations with shipyards such as Heesen Yachts, Gulf Craft and Astondoa and will be debuting a complete series of furniture soon. Being involved in different projects across different sectors of the market helps me grow as a designer and keep my passion and attention alive.

I was photocopying a series of papers for a friend and while waiting I started drawing. Dan Lenard passed by, saw my sketches and asked me to work in their brand new studio. The rest is history.
Cristiano Gatto