Near-natural product design

#StudioIndustrialDesign #Master-Thesis

The «water strider» is a boat designed for groups up to six people looking for relaxation.

The main focus of this master thesis is the design of a boat that is primarily intended to provide a recreational experience and is no longer primarily intended to cover the distance from A to B. Design, haptics and transitions between boat and water are based on structures found in nature. The target group are recreation-seeking employees from the urban environment who have little or no experience with watercraft.


The Waterstrider fascinates with its near-natural construction and its surprising transformation-ability and thus meets the increasingly important need of its users for recreation.

The boat

The boat unlocks huge recreational potential on lakes through the previously unknown ability to transform. Users get on the boat that fits perfectly into any conventional harbor space. On the lake, it can transform and enlarge into a so-called island mode.

My inspiration

In my apprenticeship as a boat builder, I’ve been dealing with two major areas of tension: limited space in motorboat-design and the lack of sustainability. On one hand, there is a discrepancy between the expanse and fascination of lakes and the constricted deck layout of motorboats. This discrepancy gives passengers hardly any freedom in movement as well as clearly defined seating positions. On the other hand, there is a terrifying lack of sustainability in boat building. It is my goal to offer new approaches.

How it works

The boat is designed to leave the harbor and literally develop its main function on the lake: it becomes a small island, whereby recreation can be found in several places as well as different ways including sitting or reclining. Through this transformation, additional surfaces are made accessible by sliding the main deck sideways diagonally and apart. Revealing a stepped transition to the water aft and a net reclining area on the bow. In port mode, these additional areas are locked below the main deck. An electronic mechanism pushes the two catamaran hulls apart at an oblique angle towards the main axis of the boat. The electrically powered boat receives its energy through solar cells and can be driven without certification. Based on an online sharing platform the boat can be reserved by the hour for enjoyment. This eliminates the considerable additional effort for purchase and maintenance of any self-owned boat.

Design process

Ecopsychology makes it clear; humans relax best in nature. This requirement, together with aiming for more sustainability, was the basis for this design idea while keeping nature in a central role. The nature-centered and nature-inclusive design methods in architecture provided an approach that can also be applied to the design of a boat deck. The two aspects: asymmetry and permeability, which are practically unknown in the motorboat design world are consistently recognizable throughout this project.

Where is the difference?

Recreation is a priority over locomotion, the boat as an island, offers a variety of reclining and seating options as well as the transition zones to the water which are fairly new to this boat category. In order to moor at the harbor, the island is converted into a boat with reduced dimensions in a completely new transformation process. The most common and non-recyclable material in boat building is glass fiber, reinforced plastic, as well as any glue-bonds are completely dispensed. The load-bearing substructure consists of aluminum, the deck made of natural materials such as wood, natural cork (instead of teak), and ceramics. Connections are either screwed, welded, or implemented via traction.


Prof. Werner Baumhakl, Studio Industrial Design,

Nicole Schneider, Studio Industrial Design


Prof. Dr. Ralf Trachte, Studio Industrial Design,

Alfredo Häberli

, Studio Industrial Design