Why should cruise ship operators trust the design process?

Alan Stewart, senior associate at SMC Design, tells Lindsay James about the design processes that transform a space into a room

Why should cruise ship operators trust the design process?

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

SMC Design is no stranger to success. With over 30 years’ experience, the firm has worked on over 70 newbuild projects and countless more refurbishments, boasting an enviable list of clients that reads like a who’s who of the cruise business.

“It’s been an incredible few months,” explains Alan Stewart, one of the firm’s stalwarts. “SMC has continued to add the correct creative talent to the team to undertake the wonderful variety of projects we are involved in. We’ve got lots of repeat business in the mix, which is great, but also a lot of new clients. The newbuild market is really buoyant at the moment, which means there’s also a lot of refit work as many operators are selling off their old ships.”

For all of these clients, Stewart relishes the opportunity to transform a space into a room. “It’s very satisfying when all of the fundamental parts of the process – function and location; area and capacity; brand and passenger demographic; and narrative – all sing together,” he says.

The design of a new space begins by the room type, Stewart explains. “We start the process with what we call ‘block planning’. It’s very important to understand the function of the space early on – and from this we usually evaluate numerous locations in order to select the optimum locations for each particular space and the placement study of how well certain spaces relate to one another. For example, some rooms require much quieter locations, while some may benefit from natural light and ocean views. Other spaces require darker locations and can be more high energy rooms which are more likely to be noisier.”

Once the best possible location has been selected, Stewart and his team then focus on the volume requirements and the size of a space. “Different room types require different interior volumes and seating capacities,” he says. “The richness of a vessel also needs to be considered. The volume of space can, when designed correctly, be perceived as luxurious, however if a space is too big then it can very easily lose atmosphere. No one likes to sit in an empty restaurant or theatre.”

For this balancing task, Stewart refers to SMC’s comprehensive database, which currently holds information on over 70 newbuild ships. “This helps us to ensure that the area size per passenger is sufficient for the room’s purpose and, using such comparative data, we can always give our clients the reassurance the area size meets expectations,” he says. At this point of the process, Stewart says it’s paramount that he understands the brand he is designing for. “Whether it be adult-only contemporary Scandinavian, or our brightly coloured family vessels, understanding brand values and the target passenger demographic is essential to the success of a project.

“Each space we design requires solid narrative. And this is not only for our more themed interiors – narrative should always be used at the beginning of the design process as this conveys the style and personality. Such definition is absolutely essential before we even start to think about the creation of a new room.”

These processes are quite unique to the cruise industry. “When designing for passenger ships, there’s many considerations – restricted free heights, the classification of materials, fire-loads and even evacuation requirements,” Stewart says. “The wonderfully challenging aspect of the cruise industry is the amazing variety of design that is required. With SMC’s extensive understanding of the market, we are able to continually create unique and interesting areas. There’s no question that architecture on passenger vessels can lead to dynamic and challenging environments, but that’s what excites us.”

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
01 August 2019

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