Change is the only constant
Yacht building now accounts for a large proportion of revenue at Deutsche Werkstätten, yet the company’s entry into this particular market was fortuitous. In the late 1990s, it was commissioned by the national rail network, Deutsche Bahn, to kit out the interior of the Metropolitan Express Train. It was conceived as the luxury variant of the new ICE 3.
The team in Dresden developed high-strength veneered board and a new surface treatment. The ICE lounge-style carriages had to dampen vibrations, comply with fire protection standards and withstand rapid acceleration. Two of the luxury ICEs were delivered. Then the financial officers at DB vetoed series production and the Metropolitan project was abandoned.
The ICE episode put the company in the red, but in the process, they had considerably enhanced their expertise. The next logical step was therefore to branch out into luxury interiors for mobile structures. There is no more demanding and cost-intensive challenge in interior design than that presented by a luxury yacht. Deutsche Werkstätten fought to establish itself in a niche market that it has now made its own.
Despite stringent fire protection regulations, many customers and the designers who work for them specify wood surfaces, which creates technical challenges. The yacht specialists from Hellerau work together with researchers at TU Dresden on the development of new fire-resistant materials. Millimetre-thin veneers, bent into complex shapes, treated with highgloss lacquers, a 360-degree rotatable bed, bathrooms with precious wood veneer, marble and onyx surfaces are among the less extravagant choices.
One of the most expensive commissions for the interior of a single yacht amounted to 23 million euros. Another celebrity customer wanted a complete professional recording studio installed, which was to remain fully functional even when the yacht was going at top speed. That was clearly one job that was not without its technical complications.
“We make our living from doing things that other people can’t,” says Straub. “And if we’re not already able to do them, we learn how.”