Naval architecture is the design and engineering of marine vessels. These vessels include not only government navy ships and submarines, but leisure boats such as yachts. Naval architecture is hardly a new discipline, since it technically began during ancient navigational times. Viking ships and American steamboats are both historical examples of naval architecture. Today, naval architecture is more of an engineering science since architects rely on mathematics to design new naval vessels.
When constructing naval vessels, naval architects study the science of fluids. They study buoyancy, displacement of water, waves, stability, and streamlining architetti a Bologna . As concerns the naval structure, they study its weight distribution, resistance, and maneuverability. Their studies also include naval construction materials and interior components, along with dry-docking and launching operations. Yet, no matter how much work architects put into research, all naval structures operate in unstable marine environments. Even the most structurally sound ships may become damaged or sink due to storms, tsunamis, and other environmental calamities.
Even in antiquity, naval architects recognized that streamlining their ships made for a smoother course at sea. At some point in time, architects used the adjective “fair” to describe a vessel’s regular, fluid shape from its fore to aft. The opposite of a “fair” shape was a “bulky” or “ungainly” shape. Today, all naval vessels have the same basic shape, even extremely large aircraft carriers.
When designing ships, naval architects first provide a safe foundation through the ship’s hull. The hull is the specially curved bottom of the ship. The hull’s basic purpose is to supply buoyancy to the ship so it safely floats on water. Its elongated shape, with the pointed ends of the bow and stern, protects the ship against sinking, since the shape distributes weight evenly throughout the vessel. The hull is by far the most essential component of naval architecture.
When designing hulls, architects check for several requirements. First, they check that the hull can displace water effectively, which means that the boat displaces an amount of water equal to the boat’s weight. This gives the vessel greater efficiency and stability. Architects also check that the hull is as streamlined as possible so it causes minimal resistance to the water, which produces fewer ship-rocking waves. Checking for resistance is especially important for ships that operate at high speeds, such as speedboats and military ships. Lastly, architects make sure that their ships heed buoyancy and gravity principles, the most prominent of which is Archimedes’ Principle of Buoyancy.
When designing the hull, architects ensure that the shape of the hull fits the ship’s purpose. For instance, a round hull is efficient and stable, though it is not ideal for high speeds. In contrast, the deep-V hull performs well at high speeds because it “slices” through even choppy waters.