Jouin Manku’s Soaring Public Spaces Anchor the New Celebrity Edge Cruise Ship
An immense crystalline chandelier in silvery white and champagne gold dominates the ballroom, a luxurious shipboard take on a traditional Italian piazza. In the adjoining atrium, a lustrous brass pendulum hangs down a three-deck stairwell to hover over a large flat astrolabe—a tribute to ancient instruments of celestial navigation. When they first embarked on the project for Celebrity Cruises, Interior Design Hall of Fame member Patrick Jouin and his Jouin Manku partner Sanjit Manku were neophyte seafarers. Jouin, born in Nantes, knew the famous shipyards along France’s Atlantic coast, and his grandfather had been a welder for the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, where Celebrity Edge was built, but he had never set foot aboard a cruise. Manku, from Toronto, says he “had practically never even seen one.”
Compared to industry behemoths, the 16-deck Celebrity Edge is merely midsize—1,000 feet long and 130 wide, accommodating 2,819 passengers and 1,320 crew—more or less equivalent to a respectable small town floating back and forth from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Caribbean (and, by the end April, around the Mediterranean).
For the interiors, Celebrity Cruises “sought something innovative, sophisticated, something never yet done on cruise ships,” Manku begins. “Picture windows, not portholes. The brand not only envisioned it as more inventive than ever before but also for it to be the first of a whole new class of ships.”
Along with WKK Architects partner Tom Wright and Scott Butler of Wilson Butler Architects, both Celebrity veterans, the cruise line assembled an international team of newcomers. Interior Design Hall of Fame member Patricia Urquiola was asked to do the public areas in the stern, including the three-deck Eden entertainment complex. Kelly Hoppen Interiors was assigned the staterooms and suites. For Jouin Manku, the commission was for a series of high-activity public spaces: the Grand Plaza, the Atrium, a staircase linking the latter to two balcony decks, and adjacent circulation corridors, all of which totals 11,000 square feet.
To forge into the future, Jouin and Manku began by going back to basics. “We started thinking about the golden age of ocean liners,” Jouin says, “glamorous, romantic, an amazing adventure.” The nearly 5,000-square-foot Grand Plaza is a cruise equivalent of the grand ballroom on such legendary liners as Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary and the French SS Normandie. “The question was,” Manku recalls, “How do we get back to that idea of joy and fun?” One answer was employing “natural, eternal, real materials,” he says: wood, plaster, metal, stone, fabric, leather, and glass. The palette is restrained and luxurious, with beige, brown, cream, white, silver, and gold.
From the floor of Deck 3, the central section of the Grand Plaza is open to the ceiling of Deck 5, the space rimmed by two balcony decks with three restaurants, a café, and a casino. Down the middle, the ship’s structural steel columns remain in place, undisguised and painted white.
The Grand Plaza is open all day and into the night; it’s used as a passageway, a meeting spot, and a bar/lounge, essentially a social hub where coffee and cocktail hours merge. Furnishings—lamps, marble-top tables, chairs, and banquettes—are custom throughout. A circular bar straddles two slightly different floor levels, one side using chairs, the other barstools. A round bar is not as practical as a straight one, Manku notes, “but it allows people to see each other and encourages communication.”
The LED-fueled acrylic glass rods forming the room’s enormous chandelier cascade down from the ceiling to converge just above the bar. “If the bar is the ground, the chandelier is a cloud, and between them we hope there will be some lightning,” Jouin says with a grin. “In the daytime, the chandelier is a beautiful sculpture,” Manku adds, but at night, “it goes crazy,” coming alive like a celestial organ whirling out silent crescendos of dancing light.
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Behind the ballroom, the staircase in the 5,000-square-foot Atrium zigzags up to balconies containing the ship’s general dining spaces. A version of French physicist Léon Foucault’s pendulum hangs down from the Deck 5 ceiling to Deck 3’s floor, where its brass bob meets a large astrolabe set flat on a brass base. Foucault’s original 1851 pendulum was the first scientific experiment to provide clear evidence of the earth’s rotation. The Edge’s pendulum is not an exact copy—the original weight was a ball, not a cone, and it swung over a circular bed of sand. The replica here is meant to remind 21st-century cruise-farers that they too are plying the open seas, where for millennia navigation depended on astrolabes, quadrants, sextants, and stars. As for Jouin and Manku, seduced by the sirens of the sea, they are already working on the Apex, Celebrity’s next ship.
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Project Team: Patrick Jouin; Sanjit Manku; Charlotte Cardaire; Bruno Pimpanini; Ken Tchikaya; Vincent Cuzin; Arnaud De Palange; Axel Mak; Eloïse Allonville; Olivier Evrard; Cécile Voyron; Juliette Logereau: Jouin Manku. Chantiers de l’Atlantique: Architect of Record. L’observatoire International: Lighting Consultant. Peter Millard & Partners: Art Consultant. Decon: Atrium, Circulation Contractor. Tino Sana: Grand Plaza Contractor. Studio MTX: Grand Plaza Screens Designer.
Product Sources: Kalmar Lighting: Custom Chandelier (Grand Plaza). Studio MTX: Custom Screens. Moore & Giles: Panel Leather. Kova Textiles: Metallic Panel Leather. Ludvig Svensson: Panel Fabric. Vescom: Transparent Panel Fabric. Kvadrat; Rohi: Panel Fabric (Hall).
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