2017 Agenda





09.05      PANEL DISCUSSION: Reviving & Reinterpreting Heritage in Design

The past few decades saw a building boom across the Middle East which propelled the creation of the glittering metropolises we see across the region today. Entire new cities, bursting with skyscrapers, sprang up as if overnight. While the initial construction boom produced architecture and urbanism that could be characterised as ‘global’ or ‘modern’, a number of factors have ensured a more measured approach to architecture and design in recent years, and today, we see a region that is evolving and maturing beyond the ‘all that glitters’ style of yesterday, and towards a more sustainable and culturally aware style. A growing number of projects across the Middle East are now attempting to express a sense of cultural heritage through the integration of native cultural motifs and elements of vernacular architectural forms. Further still, a number of projects are underway to preserve and restore culturally and historically significant buildings and sites that are part of the cultural identity and DNA of these countries and their people. However, identifying cultural heritage and incorporating it in designs is much more than just including overtly Islamic or Arab design motifs (the mashrabiya pattern is a commonly overused example) in one way or another. So, how can designers and architects work towards the recent revivalist movement and look towards truly reinterpreting the Middle East’s cultural heritage and indigenous architectural roots in their designs?

Discussion Point 1: Culture is not something that can easily be pinpointed, and is constantly in flux. Heritage can also be subject to multiple competing narratives and is part of a creative process that involves discovering tradition and recreating, reinterpreting, and re-contextualising aspects of an often less-than well-documented past. In this way, interpretations of cultural heritage are neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but like culture itself, are constantly being reinterpreted over time in an endless series of hybrids. Is it possible to pinpoint a concept that is so fluid?

Discussion Point 2: Evoking a recognisable essence of cultural heritage through building materials is another common approach to project an air of authenticity and give a nod to the vernacular. More commonly, however, traditional materials are rejected in favour of concrete and glass. An understanding of the natural and cultural landscapes, its materials and how these can fit into the surrounding environment is not only important to the conceptual reference, but is also essential to the environmental reference and the sustainability of a project. How are designers and architects factoring in the sustainability narrative in to such projects?

Discussion Point 3: In a distinctly post-modern, city-centric region, there has also been a noticeable move towards conserving the region’s recent past through retro-fitting of older outlying buildings from the last century. Rather than demolishing these structures, attempts to revive interpretations of local cultural heritage through retrofitting and repurposing of neglected buildings has seen a surge recently. So how can designers give these buildings new life and present a fresh and interesting story, while staying true to their origins?

MODERATOR: Cristiano Luchetti – Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, Art & Design, American University of Sharjah

PANELDr Anna Cornaro – Associate Professor of Architecture, American University in Dubai | Founder, COdESIGN

Lulie Fisher – Design Director & Founder, Lulie Fisher Design Studio

Maja Kozel – Founder | Spatial Designer, Maja Kozel Design

Ahmed Bukhash – Chief Architect & Founder, ARCHIDENTITY


09.50      TAKE 10…INSIGHT & INNOVATION IN DESIGN: #SHELTAINER – Where Humanity Meets Hope

Bassel Omara – Senior Design Architect, Dorsch Gruppe


10.00      CASE STUDY: Translating Cultural Motifs into Contemporary Interiors

This session will discuss the process and the concept behind designing Palestine’s largest shopping mall.

Patrick Bean – Design Director, LACASA Architects & Engineering Consultants


10.20      TAKE 10…INSIGHT & INNOVATION IN DESIGN: Sustainable Urbanism

Matthew Utley – Associate Principal, Grimshaw




11.20      TAKE 10…INSIGHT & INNOVATION IN DESIGN: Creating π-People: Teaching Design and Innovation for a Networked Generation

Hani Asfour – Associate Dean, Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI)


11.30      PANEL DISCUSSION: Battling for Quality and Design Integrity

 Although still relatively young, the Middle East market is steadily maturing, and a shift in approach to urban planning, development and building design has become more evident. Although, the region is still a long way off from true maturity and following a few years of economic uncertainty and diversification efforts, the focus for some developers and clients is now moving towards cost, function and aesthetic – namely, “value”. Although in some ways understandable, this is proving to be a real challenge for regional designers who are now faced with a competitive market where quality and concept is not considered the priority for projects, but speed, and cost is. Deadlines are shorter and budgets are lower, which can really stifle the creative process, limit quality and the ability to stay true to a concept. This of course is not a challenge unique to the Middle East, but it is important for the region’s architects and designers to work together as an industry to support each other and ensure that client expectations are realistic, and that the concept of quality over cost is understood. So how can this be achieved?

Discussion Point 1: Speed – With project schedules getting shorter and shorter and building types and interiors becoming more complex, expectations from clients on delivery time can lean towards the ludicrous, with designers expected to turn around projects within a matter of days or weeks. In a market where competition is becoming fiercer, it’s difficult for firms to turn down projects based on timescale. However the balance between quality and speed is an area that needs to be addressed. So how can the design community come together to ensure that an industry structure and standard is set so that the culture of under-cutting is phased out?

Discussion Point 2: Education – Architects and designers are engaged to bring ideas and innovation to projects, yet there seems to be a misunderstanding from clients in the region as to what their role actually entails and therefore do not value their input during certain phases that can be crucial. How can the industry work towards changing this image to better educate clients on the significance of their input in defining a project from the outset?

Discussion Point 3: Value Engineering – Commercial constraints are endemic to the nature of projects – from large scale residential developments, to the latest hotel to enter the market. Increasingly, value engineering is seen as a way to reduce costs on materials and products, but can seriously weaken the quality of the design, not to mention can open a lot of copyright infringement disputes – so how can designers push to have post-contract presence, and a say in the materials and products being used in their designs to preserve the project’s design integrity and a designer’s intellectual property?

MODERATOR: Robert Willock – Editorial Director, ITP Media Group

PANEL: Tarek F. Ardakani - Director of Operations, Emkay Interiors

David Daniels – Director of Architecture, SSH

David Lessard – Director of Hospitality, Perkins+Will

Neil van der Veen – Principal, RMJM

Elizabeth Valkovics – Head of Business | Project Director, Kristina Zanic Consultants


12.15      ASK THE EXPERT: Understanding Intellectual Property & Your Rights

This session will begin by sharing some of the key findings from Commercial Interior Design’s recent design copyright protection survey and then offer a chance for the audience to ask the expert their burning questions on what their rights are with regards to the intellectual property issues, and offer practical advice on how to tackle these matters.

Victor Siriani – Managing Partner, Avid Intellectual Property


12.30      TAKE 10…INSIGHT & INNOVATION IN DESIGN: Zaha Hadid Legacy & Ongoing Projects

Tariq Khayyat – Head of Region – Middle East, Zaha Hadid Architects


12.40      KEYNOTE LECTURE: Challenges

Korea has become one of the fastest urbanized nations in the world in a mere span of half a century, resulting in a bombardment of challenges that are environmental, social, and political. Reacting to concoctions of such forces, the work of Mass Studies is a series of investigations of a multitude of highly specific conditions, both urban and non-urban, actively finding opportunities to embed new collective dynamics. Applying such an approach to works beyond constructed buildings, Mass Studies actively composes new architectural dialogues and speculations.

Minsuk Cho – Founder, Mass Studies


13.10      IN CONVERSATION WITH….Minsuk Cho