Luigi Prina might be 83 years old, but he still has the imagination of a child. The Italian architect’s studio is filled with miniature flying ships of all shapes and sizes, suspended from the ceiling with nylon strings. And here’s the special part – some of the ships really do fly. When Luigi twists the propeller and lets the toys go, they whizz around the room in loops and circles.
Luigi has been obsessed with ships ever since he can remember. He began building model ships at a very young age. When he was 16, he won a national aircraft modeling competition. The judges were particularly impressed by his superior craftsmanship – and also his age. “When I went to collect my prize, they asked me: ‘Why didn’t your father come to collect his prize?’ ‘What do you mean my father, I am Luigi Prina!’ They were quite upset by this,” said Luigi.
But it wasn’t until 50 years had passed that Luigi was inspired to make his model ships fly. “I met Eugenio Tomiolo, a Venetian painter and boat builder,” he said. “And then I said to him: ‘Do you want to bet that I can make the boats fly for you?’ And I made the first boat. I made it fly in his studio. He had painted his ceiling like a sky with clouds. When the ship began to go around the ceiling it seemed as if the clouds were moving.”