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Art and industry united in design: SS Oriana

Valeria Carullo

SS Oriana, launched in 1959, was the largest passenger liner on the Australia/New Zealand service, her weight reduced by a lightweight aluminium superstructure

Credit: John Maltby / RIBA Collections

SS Oriana, launched in November 1959, was the last of the Orient Steam Navigation Company's ocean liners, as the company was a year later absorbed into P&O. Since the Orion, built in 1935, each Orient Line ship’s name began with the letter ‘O’ and the name chosen for the new liner was one given to Queen Elizabeth I by the poets of her era. SS Oriana was the largest passenger liner to be placed on the Australia/New Zealand service; however, her entire superstructure was made of aluminium, a lightweight material that reduced her overall weight. The naval architect was Charles F Morris, while the design of its bright, modern, public rooms – for both first and tourist class passengers – was co-ordinated by the Design Research Unit, which was also responsible for the ship’s badge, designed by Milner Grey. The aims of the DRU, the first multi-disciplinary design agency to be set up in Britain, were to bring together art and industry and to produce design for everyone. The photograph shows the first-class Junior Club room with climbing frames designed by June Lyon.