A Design Icon: The Work of Carlo Riva

By Ben Roberts

The iconic designer Carlo Riva has sadly passed away this week, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy of style and elegance. With clients such as Brigitte Bardot and admirers from across the yachting and lifestyle industry, we take a reverent look back at his legacy of unbridled creativity.

A Testimony to Design
“Carlo Riva was an icon of his age, he still is and will be for some time,” explains Donald Starkey. “The very name ‘Riva’ conjures up an image of classy, stylish, extravagance, a dashing and exciting life style. A brand name many years before the current trend for brands.”

“He was a master,” continues Starkey, “a brilliant engineer and contradicted many of his competitors by making beautifully styled and detailed fast wooden pleasure boats."

“Carlo Riva’s work was the epitome of Italian style for generations,” adds Tim Heywood. “I am pleased that when ‘Cakewalk’ (now Aquila) was built, I had the opportunity to view the, then, latest of his creations, a Riva Cento, a stunning craft that lived aboard, as the owner's personal tender. The attention to detail was remarkable, a great tribute to the man whose talent will live on in his work for many years to come.”

“The world has lost a brilliant creator of boats,” comments Alberto Galassi, CEO of the Ferretti Group. “A master of style, a giant in Italy’s industrial and business history. To me, this is a personal loss of a master, an example of brilliance, of commitment and dedication to work.”

“Carlo Riva taught us the meaning of vision, creativity and passion. His vision and inexhaustible innovative energy make him the leading personality in the 20th century yachting world, a man whose extraordinary creations have already become legends.”

The Golden Age of Aquarama
It was the beautifully crafted Riva pleasure boats that gave the master designer iconic status. These sleek, wooden symbols of style graced waters around the world with yacht owners and film stars on board.

This style famously came to the fore with the first-ever model ‘Ariston’, which gave way to the legendary Aquarama in 1962; built for the likes of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Liz Taylor, Sean Connery, Jean Paul Belmondo, Richard Burton and Jackie Stuart.

The flawless lines of the Riva pleasure boat originated from Carlo Riva’s view of changing a boat into a luxury craft; opening a shipyard in 1954 which is today protected by the Italian Institute of Artistic and Architectural Heritage.

Responsible for a golden age of design, which has maintained its timeless elegance to this day, Carlo Riva’s brand evolved to include large yachts and his final model of the beloved powerboat range, the Rivamare; launched only in 2016.

A Move to Superyachts
Constantly launching a new fashion with each design (creator of the world’s first fiberglass boat) Carlo Riva’s move into the superyacht market was an impressive new arm for the brand, and brought about many new projects.

Carlo Riva had a view of superyacht design since the 70s, bringing forward a 50-metre angular and ultra-stylish project, as well as a sleeker 122' Mythos.

The 50-metre Riva was the first of the Riva Superyachts Division, and is currently under construction in Ancona; a launch that will become a milestone for the brand responsible for contributing marine heritage to Italy's longstanding creative culture.

"He was a master, a brilliant engineer and contradicted many of his competitors by making beautifully styled and detailed fast wooden pleasure boats."

Donald Starkey, Superyacht Designer

"He was a master, a brilliant engineer and contradicted many of his competitors by making beautifully styled and detailed fast wooden pleasure boats."

Donald Starkey, Superyacht Designer
By Ben Roberts
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