In his Genes

Frank Laupman’s success stems from his DNA.

Scientists long ago figured out that we carry DNA from both our parents. Frank Laupman, founder and director of Omega Architects in the Netherlands, feels that his success is very much the product of both his mother and his father.

“My mother was an interior designer and an artist, and my father was a manufacturer who invented and designed machinery for mass production,” Laupman says. “My work reflects an equilibrium between my private and personal artistic ideals, and communal values. … I enjoy creating something not just on my own, but with a larger group of people for a greater good.”

Over the course of his career, Laupman has combined his talents and skills—and his parents’ genes—into a successful design studio that focuses on a broad range of projects including commuter vessels, inland commercial ferries, semi-production yachts, refits and custom superyachts. The studio does land-based architecture and design as well.

Laupman likes to put a new sketch up on the wall weekly as a creative exercise. Sometimes a sketch turns into reality.

When he was young, Laupman did not specifically envision a profession in yacht design.

“I grew up in agricultural rural Holland near Nijmegen, by the Rhine River,” he says. “I was a rather shy child. I preferred artifacts over people.” He recalls spending a lot of time under his mother’s drafting table, enthralled with watching her make sketches and designs for textiles.

His mother studied art and interior design at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, while his father attended Delft University of Technology.

Renderings of the 230-foot (70-meter) yacht concept Elle.

“My father became a manufacturer who developed several patents,” he says. “One on a flatbed printing mill. He taught me that it is possible to protect your intellectual property.”

For a time, his parents collaborated with each other. His mother made designs for curtains, and his father mass-produced them on the mill of his own invention.

Laupman attended Eindhoven University of Technology, where he received a master’s degree in architecture and design. Similar to his father, he had a passion for invention; and like his mother, he wanted to implement his aesthetic creativity.

Frank Laupman with Frans Heesen in front of Galactica Star. 

He was also influenced by the work of Austrian conceptual architect Hans Hollein of Superstudio, as well as the architecture of modernist Le Corbusier and the New York Five including Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman. Laupman’s master’s thesis was a design proposal for a long building that penetrated two sides of a riverbank, and that resembled an aircraft carrier. He enjoys conceptual thinking. Even today, once a week or so, he may simply put a new concept sketch up on the wall to keep his thinking fresh.

When he graduated, his father drew him into his business, which at that time was the manufacturing of music amplifiers. After a few years, his father wanted to know if Laupman was planning to take over the business, and gave him 60 days to decide. While Laupman had a personal passion for music and still plays the guitar, manufacturing amps was not how he saw his life unfolding.

A 1958 printing mill invented by Laupman’s father (standing in the back row behind Laupman’s mother, who is third from right). 

In 1991, he applied for a job at Heesen Yachts. Jan Gremmen, the commercial director at the time, suggested he should gain some yacht design experience with naval architect and designer Pieter Beeldsnijder. Laupman spent two years with Beeldsnijder before being beckoned home again to assist the family company during a sales slump.

After he helped his father and brother get the company back on track, he joined Heesen.

“It was at Heesen where I started to combine my production management know-how with my first yacht design,” he says. “I was tasked with improving an old Mulder design. I decreased the volume on the yacht and made it two and a half decks, which in turn made it more efficient. Next, I designed a 57-foot open race boat with Arneson drives for Frans Heesen.”

240-foot (74-meter) Yalla built by CRN in 2014.

In 1995, Laupman formed his own company, Omega Architects, which has been responsible for the exterior design of more than a hundred Heesens, and has had some involvement with a handful of other Heesen projects. Among his most notable Heesens are the 213-foot (65-meter) Galactica Star—the world’s first aluminum fast-displacement yacht—and the 164-foot (50-meter) Home, Heesen’s first hybrid-propulsion yacht.

Operating with a team of nine in Druten, Omega Architects is also working with several other shipyards in the Netherlands, and in Italy and Turkey. Currently in the works are a 148-foot (45-meter) Hakvoort, a 141-foot (43-meter) motoryacht at Venture Yachts, a 213-foot (65-meter) motoryacht at CRN and at least four builds at Heesen. They include the 197-foot (60-meter) Falcon—the largest displacement yacht built by Heesen—and three 180-foot (55-meter) projects.

213-foot (65-meter) Galactica Star built by Heesen in 2013.

Laupman enjoys the freedom of working with his custom-yacht clients, such as the owner of the 240-foot (73-meter) CRN Yalla. At the same time, he remains an ardent believer in the efficacy of platform vessels. His enthusiasm for semi-production yacht design goes back to his parental influence of melding the personal with the communal.

“If I meet with a client and express my artistic ideas with him and he embraces them all, this may only take 10 percent of my time,” he says. “The client goes home and I am left with translating those ideas to the shipyard, which has to incorporate my concept designs with the practicalities of building and engineering them. This takes 90 percent of my time. With my manufacturing background, I know how to collaborate and make things work, and to me, this is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a designer.” 

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This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Yachts International.


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