Growing up in Turku, Finland, Petu Kummala never imagined he’d wind up as a cruise ship designer in Miami, Florida.
As a child he was fascinated by the sea. In addition to sailing and windsurfing, he sailed aboard the Turku-Stockholm ferry several times a year with his grandparents. “We rarely got off the boat in port,” he says. “We just liked the trip.”
There were three things he couldn’t get out of his head: “The boats had peel-your-own shrimp (it’s about all I ate!); they had a racing arcade game (I’m now a Porsche Club instructor); and I couldn’t stop watching the sea.” So it was perhaps fate that he studied naval architecture in university.
In 1999, Kummala was working in a Finnish engineering company leading projects of ship interior construction design. His role was to take an architect’s sketches and bring the vision to life in the form of technical drawings that a shipbuilder could use.
Through an international project, Kummala met the renowned American cruise ship interior designer architect, Joseph Farcus. The two had met each other several times over a few years, when after one architectural meeting Farcus offered Kummala a job in Miami.
“It took me about ten seconds to say yes,” laughs Kummala, though he admits he did check with his wife before making a final commitment.
“I think Joe gravitated toward me because we had some kind of intuitive connection. I was the guy with the fewest questions. I just kind of knew how to bring his visions to life.”
Farcus promised Kummala enough work to keep him in Miami for three years. Now, 15 years later, the two are finishing their latest project together, the Costa Diadema, to be completed in October. The ship (its name “diadema” is Italian for “tiara”) will be the biggest, most modern ship in the Costa fleet with over 1,800 cabins, seven restaurants, 15 bars, and of course a shopping center.
One of Kummala’s assignments was to design a shopping center where a feature is a corridor, which permits passenger movement through the ship whether the shops are open or not. Having designed a number of different display windows for the area, the idea came to Kummala to repeat the theme in 35 light fixtures: he would take four display frames and link them together.
“I envisioned crashed-together picture frames. It had to give off light so I put LED lights in four recesses, one in each side of the extruded aluminum frame. Each frame was done in a different finish – glossy red, glossy black, chrome, and gold leaf.”
Kummala sketched the design (he mostly works by hand), prepared a few pages of descriptive notes, and sent it away for the mockup. For interiors, a sample of almost every part of the ship is built to actual scale in order to help foresee problems and be certain of designs.
When Kummala saw the mockup he was astounded: it matched his vision exactly.
“Rarely is anything exactly the way you want it,” explains Kummala. “Builders want to make it more economical. Often they ask to change dimensions, or to use an existing material that’s slightly different. But in this case they had really nailed it!”
Ensto Italia had built the mockup for the ship’s general contractor who had hired them to produce luminaires. But Kummala himself had no idea. “Of course, I knew Ensto. But I didn’t know they built it until the contractor told me.”
It was Ensto Project Manager Fabio Tarlao who gave the fixture its name, the Chain Chandelier. “It’s a great name,” agrees Kummala, who says ship designers have so many projects going on that they generally refer to objects, even ships themselves, only by number.
How did Ensto get it so right? Was it an intuitive connection between creative entities, something akin to what Kummala and Farcus had shared? According to Ensto Italia’s Director of Marketing and Sales, Guglielmo Rutigliano, it was just business as usual. “Ensto is expert at this kind of solution. Schedules are extremely tight in shipbuilding, and so we are trained to understand the architect’s language.”
Not only to understand, but to improve. Kummala’s original drawings called for a mounting system of eight thin stainless steel rods. Ensto found away to connect the frames to each other as a single unit, allowing only four vertical hanging points. “Everything our team does,” notes Rutigliano, “is in the name of improved efficiency.”
After fifteen years, the employee-employer relationship between Petu Kummala and Joseph Farcus will come to an end, though Kummala says it’s likely they’ll work together on projects. Kummala will continue designing through his Miami company, 358 Design, its name taken from Finland’s international dialing code.
And what about future projects for Ensto and Kummala? Both parties would like to see that happen. Ensto’s Guglielmo Rutigliano says the goal is to strengthen cooperation with Kummala outside shipbuilding, such as in hotels, restaurants, and lounges.
And for Kummala, who once brought the visions of his mentor Joseph Farcus to life, it’s an ideal situation to have a partner like Ensto, who can bring his visions to life exactly as he imagines them.
Author: Scott Diel