After completing a training in design office and a design school (ENSCI), Antoine Fritsch founded his agency in 1993. At that time, he met Antoine Brugidou, founder of Iguana Yachts. Vivien Durisotti discovered the agency in 2006 and joined Antoine Fritsch as a partner five years later. The agency achieved many collaborations with companies and gradually composed a great team motivated by ambitious projects. Among the most recent projects in the boating sector, the agency has produced the designs for the range of inflatable kayaks for Tribord and Itiwit. Discover the interview of these talented and daring designers who are behind the iconic Iguana design.
THE BIRTH OF THE IGUANA CONCEPT
HOW DID THE STORY BETWEEN FRITSCH & DURISOTTI AND IGUANA YACHTS BEGIN ?
Antoine Fritsch – One day, Antoine [Brugidou] came to the agency and asked us to imagine an amphibious vehicle. His request was quite surprising, we immediately asked him if he was thinking more of a boat or a land vehicle. He wanted a real boat offering the possibility of getting back on land. Iguana was born from this request without knowing if it would remain a personal project or become a professional one. I remember warning him about the complexity of such a large amphibious craft. At that time there were many studies, investments or prototypes on this type of craft but he wanted to go one step further. For us, it was an incredibly crazy challenge. In addition, we like working on everything related to mobility in general. Iguana is the most incredible project that has come to life. We have other projects that are quite incredible but that remained at the model stage. We started from almost nothing and built everything together.
Vivien Durisotti – There is a certain duality in this project because we started from nothing, just like Antoine. There was no industry, no team.
Antoine Fritsch – There was no company, and it was complicated to form a design department. We went through prototyping phases in order to find tracks that would go in the water without rusting. Today, it seems very simple, but I remember that it was a complicated component to find.
WHEN DID THE IDEA OF THE TRACKS COME UP?
Vivien Durisotti – Very quickly.
Antoine Fritsch – The tracks are suitable to move on soft grounds because they distribute the load well and provide good traction. We had also imagined quite quickly twin wheels, which is kind of a less efficient track system.
Vivien Durisotti – The tracks offer a lot of advantages and are very different from the competitors because they allow us to integrate the mobility system. We can see that our competitors are often boats on which a mobility system has been added. We immediately wanted to integrate it to the boat.
WHAT WERE THE AESTHETIC CHOICES?
Antoine Fritsch – We were so different from what was being done that we didn’t want to make a classic boat. We had to dare an avant-garde design and this is what guided us. Antoine followed us on the design, it’s something he likes and what is exceptional is that he dared throughout the project.
THE CHALLENGES OF A TRACK SYSTEM
WHAT WERE THE STAGES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROJECT?
Antoine Fritsch – First, we gathered the information provided by Antoine. Then, we immediately worked on the mobility system because the main point was to find a system that, once folded, offered a very efficient hull. We imagined several different mobility systems: with wheels, with tracks, without tracks… In fact, the patents filed today for Iguana Yachts are based on this initial work on the mobility system. At this stage, we were not looking for aesthetics, we simply wanted to respond to a use, to have a good hull and to ensure mobility on all types of ground. Finally, in an obsession with simplicity, we tried to avoid doing something too mechanical in order to get to the point.
WAS THE MOBILITY SYSTEM THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE ON THIS PROJECT?
Vivien Durisotti – Yes, by far. With the mobility system, a lot of things became quite complex.
Antoine Fritsch – The mobility system was the most difficult aspect because we had to create one specific to Iguana. Some architects wanted to design a hull but didn’t want to deal with the mobility system and all the problems that it creates (extra weight, loss of buoyancy in some areas…). When we started to work on this concept of tracks, we worked a lot on the deployment axes of the tracks. These axes must have a very precise position because the unfolded tracks must be parallel to each other but when folded they must not be diagonal on the sides of the boat. We had to control the direction of the track when it folded. The notion of width was also important because they should not protrude from the boat. It was very complicated to integrate an automotive logic in a marine environment.
COMPARED TO OTHER AMPHIBIOUS SOLUTIONS, IGUANA YACHTS OFFERS AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION, HOW DID YOU GET TO THAT?
Antoine Fritsch – As designers, we try to think globally so that all the constraints of the project are respected and that the final product is coherent. We were concerned with integrating the mobility system from the start, even if it meant constraints (rolling on all grounds, hull, accessibility to the boat…). We are an agency of challenges, that’s also why we are solicited.
Vivien Durisotti – In the end, the track system was almost easier because it’s more linear. The difficulty lies in its very military connotation which is not easy to wear for a high-end boat. The decision to make the tracks visible finally works very well.
Antoine Fritsch – Quite quickly we thought that seeing the tracks on the sides did not interfere with the nautical side, almost serving as a fender, and allowed to sign an identity. The tracks also allow the motion to be generated and to turn by speed differential, which is pretty simple. In addition, we wanted to avoid using covers because we knew that anything added to hide the mechanics was subject to failure, maintenance, defects…
Vivien Durisotti – In the end, the tracks are the Iguana signature, the kinematics are quite simple.
APART FROM THE LAND-SEA TRANSITION, WHAT ELEMENTS OF USABILITY WERE IMPORTANT?
Antoine Fritsch – We worked a lot on getting on and off the boat using a ladder. Today, it seems very simple but there is a lot of work behind it.
Vivien Durisotti – Onboard access was key because we are already working on a very complex product. We carried out usage scenarios and opted for rear access, which seemed to be the simplest, most traditional and most practical solution.
Antoine Fritsch – We also worked on the width of the steps of the ladder, we did not want a bathing ladder with bars but something really comfortable and safe.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE FIRST MODEL, THE IGUANA ORIGINAL?
Vivien Durisotti – At the beginning, we followed the specifications provided by Antoine which consisted of a small day boat with no cabin. Then, we were constrained by the niches of the tracks which took a lot of space on the sides of the boat. That’s why we imagined these large side benches to hide the niches and to be able to embark many people.
Antoine Fritsch – On the other hand, these side benches did not help in the first sales because people did not recognize a usual boat.
Vivien Durisotti – In fact, there was a double originality: a mobility system that could be scary and a deck plan that was not traditional. As soon as we were able to free ourselves from this problem, model development became easier because we could make more “traditional” deck plans.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE SECOND MODEL, THE IGUANA COMMUTER ?
Vivien Durisotti – The Iguana Commuter was much simpler because the powertrain was completely different. Instead of having a huge body, we just had two small arms. This gave us more freedom to make seatings facing the sea, for example.
Antoine Fritsch – We thought the tracks would take a lot of space, but they fit in quite naturally because they are under the floor.
Vivien Durisotti – However, the Iguana Commuter added an additional layer of complexity because a cabin had to be integrated. It was a complicated project requiring compromises.
Antoine Fritsch – The hard top was also a real innovation in boating, it was a huge job of ergonomics.
Vivien Durisotti – We had to calculate according to the size of the people to allow a standing driving with the hard top up and a sitting driving with the hard top down.
HOW WAS THE DESIGN OF THE NEXT MODEL, THE X100 ?
Vivien Durisotti – It was still a big challenge, the transformation of a traditional boat into a RIB required work on the tubes and assemblies, but we were beginning to have some experience on the Iguanas. It was less of a challenge than the Iguana Commuter, which had a lot of innovation. The assembly of the X100 was more traditional, making the task simpler. It is an accessible and reassuring model and it is this notion of accessibility that guided the design work. It had to be elegant but not too expensive to produce.
Today, even if the technology is registered and many models have been developed, exchanges between the design department and the Fritsch & Durisotti agency are regular. The opinion of the designers is consulted for each integration. Iguana Yachts carries out many custom projects via the design department, but the dialogue with the designers is permanent in order to ensure that the proposals are thought out down to the smallest detail.
For the future, Antoine Fritsch and Vivien Durisotti would love to imagine a smaller and more accessible boat to democratize the Iguana Yachts concept. The democratization of the technology has always been a concern shared by Antoine Brugidou, founder of Iguana Yachts.