Pure Genius: Jon Bannenberg

The mega-yacht master.

Jon Bannenberg
Bannenberg was an Australian, born and schooled in Sydney.Jon Bannenberg

The name Jon Bannenberg rings bells all over the world.

For decades, he was The Man when it came to designing mega-yachts. His client list, which included Larry Ellison, Malcolm Forbes and Adnan Khashoggi, among others, was almost as glamorous as some of his nearly 200 yacht projects (Carinthia V and Carinthia VI, and Limitless, to name a few.) Evan K. Marshall, one of the most prominent yacht designers of today, recalls the impact Bannenberg had on his own career: "I can very clearly recall my first encounter with Jon Bannenberg.

Jon Bannenberg
Jon Bannenberg's items.Julian Calder
Jon Bannenberg
As a young man, he left Australia for London, and that was when his career caught fire. Here we see his passport with stamps from Greece, Gibraltar and Spain.Jon Bannenberg

It was in the late ’80s, and I was working as a designer at Sparkman & Stephens. An issue of Yachting magazine arrived with one of Jon’s early Feadship projects featured.

I remember all of us looking at it around my design table, and most of the comments from my colleagues were, ‘This is just too bizarre to be considered a boat!’ But for myself, I thought it was one of the most exciting designs and daring designs I’d seen, and I knew right then and there I needed to leave S&S and head to Europe to pursue my ongoing design-career development.”

Jon Bannenberg
The life of the world’s leading mega-yacht designer was certainly going to take him places.Jon Bannenberg

Bannenberg himself was somewhat less impressed with, well, us. In response to Yachting once referring to him as a “stylist,” he penned this letter to the editor:

“Either one is a designer or not. The word ‘stylist’ to me conjures up some kind of flimsy tweaking of a structure, whereas quite the opposite is true, at least in our own case. … That is a title I gratefully concede to Vidal Sassoon.”

You may consider this article our mea culpa.

With his unique eye for form and detail, Bannenberg changed the mega-yacht world and became an icon in the process. Indeed, the industry itself owes him a debt.

Jon Bannenberg
Bannenberg and his designs helped rekindle interest in the mega-yacht industry after it flagged post-World War II.Jon Bannenberg
Jon Bannenberg
A 75-footer designed by Bannenberg.Jon Bannenberg
Jon Bannenberg
Renderings of Jon Bannenberg's work.Jon Bannenberg