19 Jul 2022


There is a new player in superyacht design and the studio has stormed into the industry with an outlandish project that charters new territories. Kurt Merki Jr, a Ghanian/Swiss designer based in Switzerland, who heads a product interior design and architecture studio, has weighed into superyacht design with an 80-metre project dubbed Symbiosis that reimagines the relationship between luxury and nature.

Kurt Merki Jr has seen great success in both the private and commercial real estate sectors, building a thick portfolio of creative endeavours in the process. As the 80-metre superyacht project Symbiosis is the studio’s first foray into yachting, it enlisted support from Axel Massmann, CEO of yacht-green, who was involved in different, well-known superyacht projects including Living Trees and Worldwide Oldest Unique Bonsai, as Green-Specialist. The studio also pulled insight from Glenn Dalby, former Captain of the 126.2-metre superyacht Octopus and other significant yachts. 

The superyacht concept Symbiosis spans six decks and has an estimated 3,000 GT. She’s been preliminary designed with accommodation for 12 guests and twice as many crew, but her GA is flexible and free to be curated specifically for an owner. “The GA isn’t important at this stage of design,” Janina Rinne, Project Manager and Architect at Kurt Merki Jr, told SYT. “Yes, she’ll have all the trappings of a superyacht of her size and class – helipad, beach club, sauna & wellness suite and an arsenal of tenders and toys – but our focus at this stage is to create a ‘symbiosis’ that feeds nature directly into her design DNA.”

Ten new key features have been promised onboard Symbiosis that are experience-driven and which emesh nature with the luxury of superyacht travel. The studio has revealed that Symbiosis will feature a “Tree of Life” on the main deck aft, which acts as the centrepiece for the space. A cutaway has been designed in the upper deck, allowing whichever tree an owner opts for to grow through into the 140 metre-square lawn up above. This large garden is another of the features revealed by Kurt Merki Jr, and Rinne expressed with great enthusiasm that they’ve sculpted the area with a number of knocks and hideaways. 

“Kurt Merki realised there is something missing in the superyacht experience,” Rinne continued. “Yes, they’re beautiful and guests cruise beautiful destinations, but somehow nature is missing. Everything is either plastic, steel, aluminium or coated wood – guests are surrounded by artificial materials. So why not introduce nature into the actual design process? This is how the symbiosis idea was conceived.”

“It’s an unusual approach, but at the same time it's extremely practical for families and pet owners,” Rinne said. “By creating an experience with nature, one that guests and owners can really interact with can spark curiosity and interest.” Nowhere better is this exemplified than in the dining room, called the Sanctum and nicknamed “the holy green grail” by the team.

Dining onboard Symbiosis is an extravagant culinary adventure – que the third and final revealed feature – as guests will have their plates garnished by the surrounding plants. “In the Sanctum special herbs, spices and vegetables can be cultivated and then harvested by the chef, or even the owner,” Merki explained. “We’ve designed the space with plants growing in all directions, to tastefully enrich the dining experience for all those involved.” Planning such a project is not without its challenges though, especially given that Symbiosis is designed to travel.

The superyacht will navigate different climates and cater to the dietary requirements and preferences of those onboard. Axel Massman of yacht-green spoke about the practicalities of such a project: “We integrated automated watering & fertilising systems, climate & light controls as well as specially designed cabinets at the conceptual then design and engineering development stages. The result is a practical, manageable solution.”

To ensure that luxury is upheld, Axel Massmann has developed connections with a university in Germany and with those researching Epiphytes to supplement the design of a number of bespoke cabinets and features where the plants can grow. By doing so, the Sanctum doesn’t need to rely heavily on potted plants and the team has been working out the best way to create an environment and atmosphere that is experimental and glamorous.  

Symbiosis represents genuine pioneering features, raising the bar even further in the quest for the perfectly idyllic onboard environment at sea. Likely at the very top of wishlists of those privileged clients, commissioning large build projects in the years and decades to come,” captain Glenn Dalby commented. 

ⒸSuperyacht Times

Written by Alexander Griffiths