A Superyacht Design Inspired By The Math Of Dragonfly Wings

Hyun-Seok Kim’s “Voronoi” is festooned with patterns discovered by a Ukrainian mathematician.

Here’s one thing that Andy Samberg was unlikely brag about in his SNL Digital Short “I’m On A Boat”: a design based on “a special kind of decomposition of a metric space determined by distances to a specified discrete set of objects in the space.” But that pattern, called a Voronoi diagram, is what this eponymous superyacht is all about. Maybe designer Hyun-Seok Kim should follow Samberg’s lead and hire T-Pain to make this high-concept a little more understandable to the laymen out there.


Voronoi patterns show up in dragonfly wings and giraffe fur.

Kim’s boat concept (it hasn’t been built or bought yet) is named “Voronoi” after the Ukrainian mathematician who discovered the pattern Kim used in its design. It looks like something MC Escher would make after downing three fingers of whisky, and Mother Nature likes it a lot: it shows up in dragonfly wings and giraffe fur, and it can also be used to represent disease outbreaks, forest fires, and the atomic charges of molecules.

Kim took a fancy to it after noticing it in his “epidermal cell membrane,” he tells Co.Design. (Or “skin,” in other words.) “That is the natural way to optimize a sufficiently rigid structure, [using a] non-repetitive pattern,” he explains. Kim told CNN that this property makes the Voronoi pattern useful in architecture and engineering because it uses a minimum of material. But before him, no one figured it would be useful for designing a giant-ass boat.

I asked Kim why he’s so interested in yacht design. “I like travel, I like architecture, I like machines — so yachts have it all,” he says. He also considers yachts much less creatively limiting than cars: “I can imagine anything I like.” And how: one of his other designs was intended to “resemble a drill blade,” he says. Kim’s got no buyers yet, but come on — there’s gotta be some lunatic rapper out there with enough cash to bankroll the Voronoi. Do you hear me, T-Pain? This is your comeback talking!

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.