Wilson Butler: Creating New Innovations

Scott Butler, director and founder, and Rebecca Emanuel, senior interior designer

Celebrity Cruises’ Eden concept is a multi-level culinary and entertainment space. The venue is being billed as a room that lives. Unveiled in June, it will be part of the Celebrity Edge when she launches in late 2018.

But planning started much earlier, as Wilson Butler Architects pitched and won the contest for the space in March 2015.

Scott Butler, director and founder, told Cruise Industry News the idea was about maximizing the views off the aft of the ship and the experience would cross the lines between entertainment, food and beverage, and a lounge, creating an experiential and sensory space.

Royal Connection

Working exclusively with Royal Caribbean Cruises and its brands, Rebecca Emanuel, senior interior designer, said the Celebrity Edge and Symphony of the Seas were the firm’s current main cruise projects, but she has her eye out to 2022 with more ships on order.

“The design work is done (on the Edge) and now it’s reining in the details and working with the shipyard,” said Emanuel.

New features pioneered by Wilson Butler are often rolled back to other ships.

>> Go Inside the World of Cruise Ship Design with the 2018 Cruise Industry News Design Trends Report | Download a Free Copy Now

“Royal is always looking to create new innovations … and then it becomes important to go back to the rest of the fleet and implement those elements, and create the same amount of excitement for the older ships,” added Butler. Beyond newbuild projects, the company is also involved in a multitude of refits across the brands.

Among the trends is technology, and using it to create a wow experience on Royal Caribbean ships. The same trend is present for Celebrity’s premium brand platform, but more about integrating it to make the overall experience more seamless.

Then comes the idea of luxury.

“Luxury is different than it used to be,” Emanuel said. “It is less about opulence and bling. While you still may integrate some of that it’s about a more natural and authentic experience.”

Natural daylight is a big deal too – integrating it into a wellness and green standpoint.

“There is a great desire to improve the connection to the outdoors,” Butler added. He explained the ships are inwardly focused due to the nature of structural design. “They want to maximize the views and natural light that can penetrate into the ship. They don’t want to be known as dark cans.”

That trend may have started with the Oasis class and the open middle area of the ship, which brought natural light into the inside staterooms overlooking Central Park.

‘Less Themed’

Staterooms may be looking more homely soon too, with more unique, non-institutionalized furniture down to the way the pictures are hung. Additional guest personalization options may be coming to staterooms on new ships soon as well.

According to Emanuel: “When we have latched onto a good concept we know it will be impressive for some time to come.” She advised being careful with materials and colors to keep a space looking good for the long term.

“We’ve discovered over time the less themed and more authentic, the more timeless,” Butler added.

Among the firm’s challenging areas are common spaces. Think art galleries and meeting rooms.

“The generic spaces are killer for us … that is where everyone is all over the map and its hard to get consensus on it,” Butler said.

Klanghaus on Mein Schiff 3

Master Planners

Some venues are so complex that Butler and his team get involved in projects before shipyards are even contracted.

“We were hired for the TUI ships before the shipyard,” he said.

With large venues, pillars and steel structures become a focal point, meaning the key designers on the project need to be involved from day one.

“We’re on the projects six months to a year before the other designers, working with the master plan. That is the opportunity to integrate the big ideas before the design starts in earnest,” Emanuel added.

For the new class of Mein Schiff ships being built at Meyer Turku, Butler described the brand as similar to Celebrity with its premium focus on the baby boomer generation. He also noted the ships have a key design trend: outward facing.

“Any Northern European wants to be outside when the weather is remotely acceptable.”

A little farther from Wilson Butler’s Boston headquarters, the company is also helping with Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-plus vessel that is heading for the Chinese market in 2019.

“(The Chinese) want a larger casino, and the spa and fitness center are of less interest. We may design a ship to go to China, but don’t want to preclude it from being deployed somewhere else,” Butler advised.

There is also attention paid to the dining venues, where Chinese passengers welcome a buffet-style experience at dinner in the main dining room.

Wide Ranging

Being involved in projects ranging from a 10-story waterslide to the North Star, the architects don’t shy away from what they called the next wild idea.

“Sometimes we are involved from the genesis of the idea, and sometimes we are just trying to implement it,” Butler said.

The company is proud of creating its own ideas.

“The worst design ever built is when someone imitates another designer. They lack the sincerity and sometimes the detail of what was created initially,” Butler continued. “So, trying to provide somebody with the latest and up to date design is hard because you want to stay relevant. You want to stay grounded and make sure you are designing something that will be timeless.

“Our success is making sure we don’t lose touch with the long term reality in how the space will hold up and function over time.”

Among their favorite spaces they have designed is the main theater on Mein Schiff 5.

“It had a color scheme and contemporary space and feel that I really liked,” Butler said. “Rebecca was the designer. It’s a wonderfully intimate theater for 900 guests.”

>> Go Inside the World of Cruise Ship Design with the 2018 Cruise Industry News Design Trends Report | Download a Free Copy Now

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