carlo riva, pioneering engineer of luxury boat manufacturer riva yacht, has died at the age of 95.

 

the history of riva began in 1842 with its founder pietro riva, a carpenter who moved to the italian town of sarnico, on lake iseo, from nearby lake como. the company’s reins were eventually passed on to ernesto and serafino riva, before finally ending up in the hands of pietro’s great-grandson carlo riva in the 1950s. carlo — originally an engineer — was driven by an endless passion for boats and the family business since he was a child. through his powerful vision for the company, carlo became responsible for creating the well-known ‘riva-style’ boat — a distinctive aesthetic that has become synonymous around the world with elegance and impeccable taste. 

carlo riva dies
inside the riva boatyard, small models of the classic boats are on display
image © designboom

 

 

throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the riva boatyard became internationally successful with motorboats produced by carlo riva. carlo created a series of wooden yachts characterized by unmistakable design features, one of which was the ‘ariston’, of which he says was ‘designed with love, born pure and strong like a pedigree horse. unforgettable! it was my lord of the sea’. models like the ‘tritone’ (the first two-engine yacht), the ‘sebino’ (which marked the beginning of series production), and the ‘florida’ followed, all characterized by a meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship expertise. the vessels’ distinctive design qualities made many of riva’s creations the object of desire for movie stars and aristocracy. 

 

carlo was also responsible for designing the company’s boatyard. his vision for the building was meant to mimic the feeling of being in a boat and looking out of the observation deck, where a captain normally takes charge. in 2009, designboom was invited to visit and tour the riva boatyard in sarnico — see images from inside the legendary site, and discover carlo’s legacy, below.

carlo riva dies
the dashboard of the ‘super ariston’, built between 1960 and 1976
image © designboom

carlo riva dies
a bird’s-eye view of ‘super florida’ and its lobster orange and cream upholstery
image © designboom

carlo riva dies
cleat details of the ‘aquarama’ – the cleat is metal hardware in which a rope can be fastened
image © designboom

carlo riva dies
a vintage photo of the ‘aquarama’
image courtesy of riva

carlo riva dies
brigitte bardot taking a ‘junior’ for a ride in saint-tropez
image courtesy of riva 

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riva’s vintage advertising
image courtesy of riva

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a drawing showing the inner-workings of the ‘tritone’ 
image © designboom

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sketches of mechanical functions of the ‘aquarama’ 
image © designboom

carlo riva dies
classic riva colors — white and turquoise — define the boatyard
image © designboom

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