When I was training as an architect in Liverpool about 20 years ago, a friendly-looking guy called Nigel Irens turned up to tell us how he designed boats.

When you build some of the best racing trimarans in the world (he did Ellen Macarthur’s B&Q, for instance), you don’t design for style, you design for function. The world where designers use needlessly expensive materials to follow their whims is completely alien to him.

He designs with the most advanced construction techniques in the world (his boats make your average ‘high tech’ building look like a mud hut). From a laptop in his house in Devon, he produces boats which break records around the world, in places like the Southern Ocean, which is about the hairiest place known to man (or woman).

He’s just been made a Royal Designer for Industry, joining the likes of James Dyson and Lord Foster. He’s a cross between a sculptor, an inventor, an engineer and God knows what else, with not a single scrap of pretension. I couldn’t even start to imagine some of the things he turns out on a regular basis.

If you’re interested, we’ve got him coming to do a talk at 100% Detail in September. You can guarantee it’ll make a lot of self-important architects and engineers go rather quiet.

Have a look at and never tell him I wrote this – he’d hate it.

Tim Pyne – 100% Design and The London Boat Show

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