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Sea cities

Ideas for a new style of architectural design for large cruise liners



Impressive, enormous, a miracle of technology and know-how, filled with art and design: those are the unchallenged qualities of the cruise ships of the present times. They are the result of the expansion of the cruise industry that took place in the past years. But some critics say that they do not have the same appeal as the smaller vessels, which often are more luxurious, even becoming mega-yachts lately; that they are destined to the mass tourism built for it and for that reason they lack of charm.


The global health issue that surfaced globally last year produced a shock to the cruise industry, which completely shut down operations for more than a year and is still struggling to recover under difficult conditions. This might be the right time to reconsider, among other elements of the business, the design and the architecture of the largest among the cruise ships. It is on this topic that we focus here.


Cruise ships have grown up in the last few years, and they continue to do so today. Thousands of people, passengers and crew travel on them. Although they are small cities in motion, they are not designed as such. They are thought more like building blocks. When compared with the most advanced land architecture, the architecture of the sea has a 20-30 years’ delay. Big building blocks are out of fashion in our days.

Our goal is to change that now. We should rethink how we approach cruise built environments radically. City planners are not involved in cruise ship projects, to our knowledge. We believe they should be. We should adopt new space planning procedures when the cruise vessels become the size of a city.


It is also important to find new ways to respond radically to existing or to come threats, such as the current health crisis. Risks must be studied and dealt with architecturally.


One way to bring about all this transformation would be choosing to adopt the principles of Mediterranean architecture. During my architectural and town planning university studies, I worked on those principles for several years.


In what ways could this change the cruise ship typical plan? While keeping the basic principles of naval architecture in what concerns safety and security and aerodynamics of the external volume of the vessel, completely redesign both the interior and exterior of the vessel working with basic ideas such as the following: use broken lines and curves instead of straight lines; create many sub-spaces, like small squares; divide large common areas in smaller ones and reunite small ones that are unnecessarily split; position differently the cabins to avoid their regular juxtaposition side by side.


Architects must also take action to prevent the generation of feelings of claustrophobia, boredom, and open space phobia, as well as the feeling of living and moving in mass; avoid creating spaces that resemble impersonal large hotels and commercial centers.


Cruising should also be more appealing to vacationers who don't like the feeling of being trapped inside massive buildings.


By adopting the idea of a complete architecture renewal, we would also listen to people, both those who take cruises or wish to, and those who do not. Concerns, both positive and negative, should serve as a good guide into novelty and innovation.


Why not transform the big cruise ships of the future to small towns filled with surprises, where residential and leisure areas, corridors and open spaces are mixed harmoniously, like in the Greek islands. Can we design the largest of the vessels like small towns built in a human scale, where will be enjoyable to live from a few days to several weeks?


The above ideas would be fascinating to explore with you with the aim of developing a new innovative concept of a new type of cruise vessels, a concept made for a future that will respond positively to today’s challenges.


Please notice: it has come to our attention that, some days ago, a shipyard showcased a concept of a very long cruise ship that had a few houses in the open area at the rear of its deck, such as those in Santorini. Despite the fact that it was on a very small scale, without significant or essential use for the entire design of the ship, the use of architectural elements from the Greek islands has finally just reached the doorstep of the industry. 

19/10/2021, Copyright © EURAN, European Art Networks