Featured Speakers

Benjamin Hubert - Founder, LAYER

Benjamin Hubert is an award-winning British design entrepreneur, and founder of recently launched creative agency, LAYER. The new agency is the evolution of Benjamin Hubert Ltd. and is focused on experience-driven design for both the physical and digital worlds. Led by Hubert and a growing crea-tive team, LAYER is partnering with forward-thinking brands – including Nike, Samsung, BMW, Mag-gie’s cancer charity, Fritz Hansen, and Herman Miller – to create products that will help define the way we live, work and communicate in the future, from smart wearables and furniture systems, to the next generation of televisions, mobile devices, and grooming tools. Hubert graduated from Industrial De-sign & Technology at Loughborough University in 2006, and began his career at DCA Design, the largest design consultancy in the UK. He moved to London in 2007 to work for internationally re-nowned design consultancy Seymour Powell as Senior Industrial Designer on a variety of prestigious projects, including Eurostar interiors. He then joined Tangerine, the agency at which Jonathan Ive worked prior to Apple. In October 2010, at the age of 26, Hubert founded Benjamin Hubert Ltd. with the aim of creating long-lasting products that would truly connect with people and become new heir-looms. It was during this period that Hubert became a leading voice in the global design industry, rep-resenting a new generation of designers. Challenging the traditional royalty-based model of the life-style design industry, Hubert created both a service and a retail platform for Benjamin Hubert Ltd.

Nigel Eckersall - Director of Design & Development, VE Experts

Nigel Eckersall has been a visionary leader in the development of mixed use sustainable projects across the region for the past 12 years. He was recently placed in the Top 50 GCC Architects in the Power 100 in Construction GCC. His studies on facades and planning of cities for interactive façade environments have been recently published by the RIBA and his research into sustainable vernacular architecture has helped shape many future large scale projects. More recently Eckersall developed passive cooling systems using façades as design drivers for the Qatar Fifa Stadiums that became adapted into the overall designs for the stadiums. His research into creating buildings, interiors and masterplans are creating blueprints for future living in the region, but his design philosophy actually takes its inspiration from historic GCC architecture. His work however focuses on making ‘People Places or Places for People’ and fuses all elements of design and artificial intelligence into a single linked habitable experience. Eckersall is currently developing future masterplan theories in response to the growing demand for Passive Systems that require a new approach to city planning.

Ahmed Khadier - Founder & Managing Director, PRAGMA. architects | planners

Ahmed Khadier is the Founder and Managing Director of PRAGMA architects planners. He holds a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and a Bachelor Degree in Architecture with Honours from the American University of Sharjah. An ardent practitioner, academic and researcher, Khadier has practiced and lectured within several practices and institutions. He has more than 12 years of experience in the fields of architecture and urban design. His past experiences cover an array of projects of various scales from small buildings to multi-square kilometre master plans. In 2010, Khadier served as Adjunct Professor at the American University of Sharjah teaching in the architecture program. He continues to lecture and write widely on topics pertaining to urbanism and architecture within the MENA region.

Phillip Jones - Principal | Managing Director - Middle East & North Africa, B+H Architects

Phillip Jones has more than 26 years of experience managing international, complex and large-scale projects. He has worked extensively in the Middle East for more than 25 years, where he honed his ability to successfully partner with global clients on challenging projects and drive business development. Jones has worked on such notable projects as the Doha City Centre Expansion, the Dubai Marina Master Plan and the Emaar Flagship Six Towers, as well as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. His strengths are in effective strategic planning that allows for far-reaching improvements on both the visibility of a business and its financial performance. Currently a senior principal with internationally renowned B+H Architects since 2011, Jones has overseen the successful delivery of the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies in Qatar and the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Doha. Jones’ success with large mixed-use projects is based in the design resolution of the public realm and has led to his recognition with the Architecture and Global Urban Design Award in 2005 for his work on Dubai Marina. He was also one of the authors of the City of Toronto’s initial Tall Building Design Guidelines.

Shaun Killa - Design Partner, Killa Architectural Design

Shaun Killa is a multi-award winning architect having worked on some of the world’s most iconic structures. Having graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town, Killa moved to Dubai and joined Atkins in 1998. He worked on the Burj Al Arab project and became Design Director for Atkins in Dubai where he won high-rise commissions such as the Almas Tower, 21st Century Tower, Chelsea Tower, Millennium Tower, and many projects in the Middle East. His specialisation in large mixed-use high-rise buildings and his passion for sustainable design led him to design the world’s first large-scale integration of wind turbines into a building, the Bahrain World Trade Center. In 2014, he set up Killa Design along with Allel Hadri. The company is focused on innovative, contextual, low carbon buildings which challenge architectural norms while engaging with and realising the client’s vision. The company recently handed over its first completed building – the Office of the Future. He has masterplans in Egypt, Dubai, Cape Town and KSA, and regularly participates on the advisory committees of several universities for their Bachelor and Master’s programs.

Kevin McLachlan - Partner | Head of Interior Design, Godwin Austen Johnson

Kevin McLachlan has more than 25 years’ experience in designing destinations from the UK to North Africa and the Middle East developing successful concepts for the hospitality industry, residential and corporate sectors. He has been involved in numerous projects in the hospitality and leisure industry from small scale food and drink outlets to large master-planned mixed-use developments, from Glasgow’s Groucho Club Hotel to Ibiza’s Café Mambo and Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah. Scottish born McLachlan joined GAJ in 2012 as Head of Interior Design and currently leads a 45-strong team. Under his leadership the team have delivered many exciting projects from the Fairmont in Ajman, the Sheraton Hotel Mall of the Emirates and the Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of the Emirates with a number of ground breaking projects across the region still under construction. McLachlan has designed more than 180 restaurant, hotel and leisure interiors during his career including some of the region’s most recognised landmarks. His design ability, vision and conceptual work transcend all areas of design but it is his passion and creativity that he brings to each project that makes him a highly respected industry leader.

David Daniels - Principal Architect, SSH

David Daniels joined SSH in 2015 as Principal Architect with 12 years’ experience in design architecture accrued in both the UK and the Middle East. His experience spans the commercial, hospitality, residential and retail sectors and includes the design of large stadia and sporting facilities. He was previously employed by Meraas as a Lead Design Architect where he worked on projects such as La Mer, a mixed use development in the UK. Prior to this he worked with Hopkins where he was engaged in the concept through to detailed design of the Dubai World Trade Centre (phase 1). Daniels qualified with a BA (Hons) Degree in Architecture in 2003 and is a Chartered Member of RIBA. With a Part Three Advanced Diploma Professional Practice from the Royal Institute of British Architects in the UK and a PG Diploma in Architecture Daniels brings a wealth of knowledge to SSH.

Janus Rostock - Regional Design Director, Head of Architecture, Urban Design & Masterplanning, ATKINS

Janus Rostock works as Regional Design Director for Atkins with more than 20 years’ experience. Specialising in complex multidisciplinary projects and masterplans, he has proven expertise in a wide variety of projects including the Dubai Opera project and its district, masterplanning, low rise office buildings, high rise residential towers, hotels, education, and transport. Having received his M. Arch from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Copenhagen, and after having spent a year at l’Ecole d’Architecture de Paris Belleville, Paris, Rostock worked for multi award winning firms Henning Larsen Architects and KHR. He moved to Dubai and joined Atkins in 2006, where he was part of the team delivering the Dubai Promenade and Cape Town Waterfront masterplan. In 2008 he moved back to Denmark as Associate Design Director to start up Atkins’ Architecture and Design department in Copenhagen. Following this spell he once again returned to the UAE in 2011 and is now responsible for leading Atkins’ Middle East Architecture and Urban Design team. Rostock has accumulated extensive international experience as the lead concept designer on projects and master plans in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, India, Azerbaijan, Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Ivar Krasinski - Founding Partner & Design Director, EDGE

Ivar Krasinski AIA, APA is the driving force behind the phenomenal growth and success of EDGE, architectural firm in Dubai. Prior to forming EDGE, he has been a Partner and Design Leader with major firms including HOK, Burt Hill, Stantec.

Jason Chia - Senior Landscape Architect & Urban Designer, Perkins+Will

Jason Chia is an experienced multi-disciplinary designer and holds a special interest in landscape design and ecological urbanism following a design approach where urban development is formed around performative landscape frameworks. Chia’s previous work and education has given him particularly strong skills in waterscapes and innovative technologies for water management. His experience covers a wide range of projects at various scales including public open space, commercial, mixed-use, residential and urban design.

Jonathan Ashmore - Founder | Director, ANARCHITECT

With more than a decade of professional experience working for a succession of internationally acclaimed architectural practices in Europe and the Middle East, British chartered architect Jonathan Ashmore founded multiple award winning architecture, interior architecture and design practice ANARCHITECT. A post-graduate of the world-renowned Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Ashmore is also an elected member of the RIBA Gulf Chapter, a British Council Cultural Excellence Fellowship Mentor and also an active design critic and regular architectural speaker across a variety of professional platforms and academic institutions in Europe and the Middle East. Ashmore’s passion for craftsmanship and materiality is present in all of his work to consistently realise highly refined buildings and spaces; beautifully balanced in form, function and detail. His diverse portfolio of built work spans residential, leisure, hospitality, workplace and cultural projects and is regularly published around the world in the international design press. Ashmore’s practice ANARCHITECT has been awarded ‘Residential project of the year 2014’ and the ‘AHEC Award 2015’ at the International CID Awards for the MENA region and is currently shortlisted in the hospitality category in the renowned World Interior Awards for 2016.

Ralf Steinhauer - Director - Middle East & North Africa, RSP

Ralf Steinhauer has more than 13 years of professional experience in Asia, Australia, Middle East and Europe. His predilection with architecture is one that exerts a comprehensive knowledge base spanning from conceptual design through to project delivery. As an accomplished and inspiring leader, he has led his teams to the successful completion on a series of significant projects of varying sizes with broad experience in lifestyle, hospitality, residential and commercial projects. He asserts an all-rounded position which can only be conditioned by a well-balanced program of commercial practice, academia and building. Steinhauer received his Dipl.-Ing. Of Architecture degree from Technical University of Dresden, Germany and worked in various offices for architecture, master planning and interior design before moving to Dubai in 2006. He has had the pleasure of working for some of the most renowned offices in the world, including RMJM and Woods Bagot before joining RSP. His continual dedication to ongoing knowledge, research and challenge of design methodologies is channeled via his commitment to lecturing at the departments of architecture at the Canadian University in Dubai.

Ignacio Gomez - Design Director - Middle East, Aedas

Ignacio Gomez completed his Master of Architecture and Engineering with Honors at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, ETSAM and a postgraduate programme in Museography and Exhibition Spaces at Foundation Antonio Camuñas, Centro Superior de Arquitectura, Madrid, Spain. Prior to joining Aedas, he worked for Godwin Austen Johnson as Partner and Design Director. He was responsible for leading the overall design direction and a number of key projects in the Middle East. With more than 16 years of professional experience in architecture, Gomez has been responsible for project design and management, specialising in master planning, hotel and leisure, residential and cultural projects across the Middle East. His designs have earned him various international and regional awards including ‘Best Hospitality Project’ at the Middle East Architect Awards 2012, winner in the ‘Community Future’ category at the Cityscape Global Awards 2011, ‘Young Architect of the Year’ and ‘Best Residential Project of the Year’ at the Middle East Architect Awards 2010. Gomez has been invited to be a guest critic at the School of Architecture & Design of the American University of Sharjah, UAE. He regularly speaks at different conferences in the MENA region such as the World Architecture Congress in Dubai, Architectural Design Days in Riyadh and the designMENA Summit in Dubai.

Justin Wells - Principal, Studio HBA

Justin Wells joined HBA Dubai early 2014 to launch Studio HBA bringing more than 21 years’ experience throughout Australasia and fulfilling Directorial roles for internationally awarded design practices. He is focused on driving new business and solidifying existing relationships, creating exemplary design. In his role as Princi-pal, Wells oversees the Dubai and Bangkok offices of Studio HBA working with a diverse group of talented design-ers. The senior roles undertaken by Wells have afforded him the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of ar-chitectural/design practice. Wells is an award winning architect, his holistic approach to design inspires him to approach place making with a global vision. He believes client relationships are paramount to building founda-tions of contemporary design practice. He believes both architect and client can experience and learn together throughout the phases of imagination, exploration and creation. Wells understands that architects need to work within economic constraints and that project delivery is required to inspire, communicate and link all users in the experience of a Studio HBA project.

Maliha Nishat - Design Director Interior Design Studio, dwp | design worldwide partnership

Maliha Nishat, Design Director at dwp | design worldwide partnership is an award winning designer with international experience working in Australia, Asia and the Middle East. Nishat is a sophisticated and passionate interior designer with strong conceptual design, planning and presentation skills. She is highly experienced in electronic design and technology, proficient with integrating concepts and influences to deliver high end design solutions. She has 17 years of experience and has been specialising in hospitality and high end residential design. Nishat handles independent design, initiation and coordination of directed design, delivers large scale, high profile projects from inception to completion. In 2015 she was awarded the Best MENA Interior Designer of the Year at the Commercial Interior Design Awards.

Christian Merieau - Managing Director/Partner, MMAC Design Associates

With 30 years’ experience in interior design, Christian Merieau has honed his skills from the foundations of interior craftsmanship rising to the ranks of senior management. He obtained a degree in Interior Design in 1989 and later qualified as Interior Architect in Switzerland. Prior to his relocation to Dubai in 2005 as Managing Director for Samuel Creations, Merieau managed his own firm for five years, designing private homes and office spaces. Notably, he was commissioned to re-think working environments for the International Labor Organization in Geneva. After nearly 20 years with Samuel Creations designing projects for brands such as Hyatt, IHG, Millennium, Rosewood, Marriott, Starwood, Forte Hotel Group and Accor, Merieau has recently launched with Anil Mangalat, a boutique interior design consultancy firm in Dubai specialised in mid-scale and luxury hospitality design. Merieau was named 8th most influential designer in the Middle East by Commercial Interior Design magazine in December 2012. He has also helped drive the growth of APID, the Association of Professional Interior Designers since 2009 and currently holds the role of Executive Board member.

Joe Tabet - Managing Director, JT+Partners

Joe Tabet is the Founder and Managing Director of JT & Partners. Born in Lebanon in 1973, he graduated from Holy Spirit University, Lebanon with a Masters of Architecture degree. He is a RIBA Chartered Member, Affiliated Member of the UAE Society of Engineers and Member of the Lebanese Order of Engineers and Architects. Tabet has more than 20 years of extensive experience in the Middle East architectural and construction industry. Previously he worked for WS Atkins & Partners Overseas ME for 12 years. Starting as an Architect, he rose through the ranks to become Head of Architecture, Regional Design Director as well as Regional Hotel Specialist. His strong belief in sharing knowledge led to the publication of his first book in 2008, “Atkins Hotel Guidelines”, a reference used in the early stages of hotel design. Early 2015, Tabet decided to launch his own practice, establishing JT & Partners, with headquarters in Dubai. A year later Tabet opened a branch office in Abu Dhabi. The practice grew from a standing start to 53 multi-skilled staff of multi-cultural backgrounds from 16 different countries. The result is an energetic, collaborative, creative team of innovative individuals with their fingers on the pulse of global architecture and construction, from the latest technologies and trends, to the oldest traditions, producing bespoke designs that reflect diversity in culture, experience and understanding. Joe is an exceptional architect who has the gift of being able to understand and interpret local cultural requirements and aspirations and reflecting all these into cost-effective building design solutions. He is passionate about sustainability and leads his team in integrating design strategies in projects to achieve reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions. He is innovative and resourceful by nature, has the ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ and utilises skills gained from his widespread experience in managing JT & Partners. With Tabet’s aggressive marketing and promotion strategies, JT & Partners has quickly gained recognition as a world-renowned international consultant by clients in the region. His impressive roster of clientele and contacts are located all over the MENA region. He successfully procured several projects located in more than 15 international destinations, from Morocco to Seychelles, Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka, and the UAE, spanning residential, hospitality, mixed-use and master plan developments.

Veena Kanchan - Design Director, VS Design Studio

Having acquired her architecture degree in 2002 Veena Kanchan set out on a multi-faceted career path, first under her own company, Yantra Designs, which specialised in film and TV set designs. In 2007, she moved base to Dubai, and applied her skills to designing stands for exhibitions. This in-depth experience in construction detailing resulted in a design sensibility that balanced aesthetics with practicality. In 2008, Kanchan returned to her roots in interior architecture, working for reputed interior design consultants on multiple large-scale projects over the course of five years. Armed with this background, in 2013 she left the secured life of a full-time job to work independently for architectural consultants as lead interior architect on a project basis. The highlight of her career came when she was offered the Rove hotel project on behalf of Stride Treglown consultants for Emaar Hospitality Group – a chain of six hotels to be designed and executed simultaneously.

Carla Conte - Creative Director & Founder, BR&ND CREATIVE

Since starting her design career in 2003, Carla has had extensive involvement in many prestigious, international and award winning projects. A rarity in the design industry, Conte is considered a retail and environmental branding specialist with particular focus on shopping centres, department stores, jewellery chains, fashion retailers, entertainment facilities and food retailers. Her raw talent and instinctive design expertise is the major force behind the work she has produced in North America, Latin America, the UK, Asia and presently the Middle East. Conte’s expertise lies in concept development, providing key brand strategy and environmental assessment that later translates into results driven and creative design solutions. She applies her knowledge and creative ability during each design stage to effectively lead teams in achieving well structured, efficient, and dynamically designed project results. Having worked for more than a decade for a top, large North American branding consultancy as well as later being named Head of Design (Dubai) for a boutique London retail design agency, Conte’s experience in the field is truly one that spans the globe and shows impressive variety in terms of project scale and type. She has had the opportunity to provide top tier visionary work for some major international brands and Fortune 500 companies. 2011 saw the opening of her own interiors and graphics studio, Brand Creative, which currently employs 17 designers across two countries. Conte was labeled an industry leader very early in her career, having won the title of ‘Designer of the Year’ upon graduating with honours from Ryerson University. In recent years, a number of her projects have been awarded with top honours and shortlistings from IIDA, Chain Store Age, A’ Design Awards, MEIDA and Commercial Interior Design. Conte has been listed in the Top 50 Power List by Commercial Interior Design for the last three years and is a regular contributor of her work, retail expertise and opinion in both North American and Middle Eastern publications.