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The single most significant influence on the exterior appearance of superyachts in the past decade has been the structural use of glass. Advances in manufacturing technologies mean it is now possible to produce glass that is up to 15 times stronger, pound for pound, than steel. The load-bearing properties translate into enormous windows on today’s yachts.

The latest spectacular example is 262-foot (80-meter) Artefact, built by Nobiskrug in Germany with interior design by Reymond Langton in the United Kingdom and exterior styling by Canadian naval architect Gregory C. Marshall.


Asymmetry is rare in yacht design, which is exactly why Artefact’s radical window shapes attracted the attention of the client, who was building his first superyacht. He and his New Zeeland captain, Aaron T. Clark, considered multihulls and SWATHs, but kept returning to a heavy-displacement vessel as the most versatile and cost-effective solution. Marshall’s design appealed to the owner’s desire for something extraordinary that would stand the test of time.

Artefact began as a concept that was originally developed by Geoff Harrington, one of our senior designers,” Marshall says. “We all thought he was mad and didn’t have much hope it would ever get built, but it caught Aaron’s eye and excited his owner. They were determined to keep the purity of the original design intact, which was refreshing for us because it’s quite rare to see such dedication.”

Artefact’s signature asymmetrical windows during construction.

Artefact’s signature asymmetrical windows during construction.

What did change was the size of the yacht. From Harrington’s original 180-foot (55-meter) concept, the project gradually grew to just over 262 feet (79.9 meters) and 2,990 gross tons, making her the highest-volume superyachts of her length on the water.

“My first advice to owners is to build bigger than they think they need and to design the yacht with a view to owning it for 15 to 20 years,” says Clark, who also acted as the owner’s representative throughout the design, construction and commissioning process. “That way they have the time and space to grow into it.”

A hull model was tank tested before the shipyard had been chosen. Clark rented a warehouse and built a full-size plywood mock-up of the owner’s deck and other key guest and service areas. He developed a comprehensive list of specifications to present to a short list of yards—some of which were fazed by the engineering challenges or wanted to impose their own technical platforms on the design. By contrast, Nobiskrug lived up to its reputation for taking on challenging projects, such as 303-foot (92.4-meter) Tatoosh and 468-foot (142.8-meter) sailing yacht A.

Artefact’s signature asymmetrical windows on completion. 

Artefact’s signature asymmetrical windows on completion. 

“We were looking for a builder that was willing to maintain the pedigree of the project, someone who could build a truly bespoke yacht and not just a cut-and-paste job,” Clark says. “Nobiskrug fit the bill.”

By the time the yard started cutting metal in November 2016, Artefact had been in development for more than two years. Nobiskrug took over the engineering and naval architecture and ran further tank tests as the project approached her current length, taking into account over 8,073 square feet (750 square meters) of glass weighing more than 60 tons. The longest pane is 34 feet (10.6 meters), and the thickest is nearly 4 inches (9.4 centimeters).

Unusually, much of the superstructure is made out of fiberglass to ensure stability. Lightweight and corrosion-resistant GRP compensates for the heavy glass and allows for the complex shapes of the moldings. Constructed off-site, some of the composite sections were so large that they had to be delivered to the shipyard by barge. A central steel column houses the main staircase, elevator, exhaust routes and much of the cabling and piping.

Artefact has over 8,073 square feet (750 square meters) 
of glass weighing more than 60 tons.

Artefact has over 8,073 square feet (750 square meters) of glass weighing more than 60 tons.

Artefact is one of those projects that totally depend on the will of the owner,” Marshall says. “Most owners are pretty conservative: They like the groundbreaking stuff when they see it, but it tends to get watered down as the design moves forward for reasons of cost, practicality, maintenance or ease of building it. This owner was so locked into maintaining the purity of the design that he had the energy to see it through every step of the way. Most people just don’t have that endurance.” 

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The innovative use of glass is not the only feature that makes Artefact stand out. She is also the first hybrid superyacht to be equipped with ABB’s Onboard DC Grid system that allows the engines to work at variable speeds and run on stored electrical energy.

“The hybrid system is all about operating and servicing the boat efficiently while future-proofing the owner’s investment,” says Capt. Aaron T. Clark. “Instead of pausing and thinking, How can we do things differently? most yachts out there rely on decades-old technology. I would always advise an owner to build a superyacht with some form of electric propulsion.”

The system, comprising four generators and lithium-ion battery banks hooked up to azimuthing pods, provides multiple propulsion modes, from pure battery power for loitering and maneuvering to a top speed of 18 knots on all four generators. In eco mode, power can also be pulled from the propulsion load during spikes in demand with fractional loss in speed, for a range of 6,000 nautical miles or more.

“The setup allows us to run the generators at optimal efficiency with minimal wear and tear,” Clark says. “Instead of starting another diesel engine when the power demand increases, we can just pull it from the battery bank or, conversely, use any excess energy to recharge the batteries. We’re basically always conserving or redirecting energy. That’s the real advantage.” 

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue.