The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

20 February, 2011

DNA of a Liner

Sometimes there is no need or room to improve upon greatness.  Take the bow hull form of QE2.  At the time of QM2 construction, QE2 had 35 demanding years of handling the Atlantic Crossing schedule under her belt.  Stephen Payne, QM2's Naval Architect has admitted that they essentially copied QE2's bow, scaling up the shape with the only modification being the more modern extended bulbous bow below the waterline.  As a further nod to QE2, the center portion of the bridge windows are angled forward in the QM2 fully enclosed bridge design and the window frames blacked out similar to QE2's familiar bridge structure.  QE2's DNA has successfully been transferred to the new Cunard Flagship, Queen Mary 2.

Unfortunately, the new Queen Elizabeth shares no DNA with QE2.  None.  Sorry Cunard marketeers.  Her lines are not as fine in the bow sections since she has no need to run at speeds customarily associated with the Queens.  She and her sistership Queen Victoria are built for cruising.  Nothing wrong with that, but it irks me to no end when I hear all the doublespeak about these new ships being liners.  Now I was hoping at least they would paint out the window frames black in an attempt to dress up the Vista Class clone a bit more like her predecessor or even change the amount of glass used in the bridge.  At least try to make the ship look like one in the family beyond the color scheme and funnel design.  I suspect that might have gone a long way in making these designs more unique and as least looking more like the QE2 or QM2.  Here's what the Arcadia, the original Queen Victoria looks like with blacked out window frames.

Speaking of the funnel, I wonder out loud if lifting the funnel design with the uplifting airflow scoops off QE2 was really necessary, beyond marketing purposes for these new ships, QM2 excepted.  The ships are  never going to travel at QE2's speed, nor do any of the other many Vista Class clones have this feature.  They apparently have functioned for years without it.  In fact, when the first Queen Victoria hull was reassigned to P &O as the Acadia, they left off the scoops of the decidedly QE2 looking funnel.  Has anyone complained?

When it was announced the new Elizabeth would be another clone of Queen Victoria, I had hoped for a bit more individuality on the exterior of the newbuild.  Instead, we got the same, with a bit more ugliness at the stern with additional cabins added to an already squared off stern.  Even then, this was not unique as this had already been done on the HAL Eurodam and several Costa ships.

While I am in this Vista bashing mood, one thing that has bothered me since the Queen Victoria was unveiled is the "fake" sheerline, done in paint to mimick the hullform of another Cunard ship.  This division from Federal Grey to White on the hull of the QE/QV design has as unappealing flatness and unnaturalness in an attempt to replicate the shear of QE2's hull, which is further highlighted with the placement of the name on the bow and the unequal amount of white visible below the name.  Holland America ships which share the same hull and similar dark hull/white superstructure treat this area different and, in my opinion, in a more pleasing fashion to the eye. 

The reality is though, once on board, the exterior lines and proportions become secondary to the amenities and service that the ship provides for your vacation.  With that in mind, I am particularly looking forward to a cruise on the new Queen Elizabeth in the future in her updated Art Deco inspired interiors.  Perhaps I am just spoiled with the perfectly proportioned QE2, which I could not find a bad angle to photograph her from.

Why do I dwell on the exterior of these ships?  As an Architect, I have been trained to design to not only satisfy the program requirements of the end user, but to also impart a sense of beauty to the design which will be experienced by all.  Beauty and proportion go hand in hand, but there is also a functional aspect of design that cannot be overlooked.  For instance, while Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City has great sculptural beauty from the exterior, as a museum to view art, it has its shortcomings with its interior ramp design. 

Great design is timeless and is comprised of many layers of allure as one of the partners of the firm I work at often opine that we, as designers, should be striving to achieve.  Satisfying and appealing to us on many levels over time, good design will become cherished.   Like certain buildings, ships such as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2 have become cherished.  Decorating styles will change, but the backbone and layout of the building, or ship for that matter,  must be sound.  QE2 was lavishly designed in every detail and proportion, smartly laid out, and stoutly built by proud Scots.  I think the results speak for themselves.

QE2 - there will never be another.


  1. Love that last photo - brings a tear to the eye - absolutely beautiful. Agree totally with what you say about the QE/QV but, unlike you, I can't bring myself to travel on them - even if I could afford to!!

  2. Rob, perhaps I've overstated my enthusiasm a bit. It's not like I am pouring over the QE/QV itineries to see what is interesting and what could fit into a vacation schedule, unlike what I used to do for QE2.

  3. They don't build them like the old girl R.M.S. Queen Mary anymore do they? just reading this makes me want to take my kids down to see the Queen for a little while, but maybe tomorrow.It's really hot here in L.A. today.