Design Middle East spoke to Jesper Godsk, CEO and founding partner and Adrian Battisby, senior design director at LW about the opening of a new studio in Denmark, the future of the hospitality industry, and how teamwork is the key to LW’s success

By Roma Arora

He is one of the most visible faces of the design business in the region, having spent over two decades displaying inventiveness and executing over 300 hospitality projects. Meet Jesper Godsk, the CEO of LW Design, who founded the company in 1999, with the goal of creating bespoke designs for clientele who value originality and individuality. LW’s successful projects include Bull & Bear, St. Trop, Toro Toro, Le Royal Meridien Dubai Beach Resort and Spa, and Lah Lah. Godsk, who is originally from Aarhus, Denmark, chose the Middle East in those days because he was impressed by the rich culture and saw a lot of potential in this region.

Jesper Godsk, CEO and founding partner of LW

Godsk along with four partners Colin Doyle, Cristina Wakamatsu, Jimmy Hansen, and Adrian Battisby, developed LW from Dubai to the broader Middle East and now the world, with offices in Dubai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, and, most recently, Aarhus. So, why LW Aahrus? The new office in Aarhus is a strategic addition to their global operation, and it represents the firm’s ambitious expansion aspirations. Also, it is the home base for both Godsk and Hansen, who have travelled the world, becoming professionals in the hospitality sector over time, and who, rather than giving up their international expertise, have brought it home with them. As a result, it was only natural to embrace Aarhus’ future vibrancy with international flare. “LW brings its expertise in hospitality design to Europe, identifying Denmark as the country’s pulsing design heart and establishing a space that seems more like a home than an office. There’s a lounge, a shared bar, and even an office labradoodle named Gunar in the building,” explains Godsk.

How can Godsk stay motivated and relevant after completing so many projects? His frank reply to this question was: “Restaurants are fantastic places to prevent getting too comfortable at work because they force you to look at everything with a fresh perspective.” Godsk attributes LW’s success to a motivated workforce with exceptional communication skills. Each of their completed projects is the result of a collaborative effort involving all of their departments. Godsk feels: “I believe that success is never built by a single person. LW Design nurtures their relationships and ensures that their friendship continues, as friends, associates, architects, designers, client representatives, developers – they always remain part of that family.”

Adrian Battisby, senior design director at LW, is acknowledged for his incomparable skills and originality Battisby fell in love with Dubai right away and considers relocating to the region to be one of his best moves. He recalls: “In 2003, I wanted to experience something different from the UK, so I travelled around the world and spent time in a variety of locations, which I then compared as places to live and work. Back in 2005, I chose to look for jobs in Dubai because there was so much activity in the construction business in the region, with projects springing up all over the place. It was such an exciting time. The relocation to Dubai accelerated my design career; the projects LW creates are incredible; I am so proud of our work. ”Battisby is excited about the opening of their studio in Denmark. He shared: “LW’s Scandinavian founders brought with them the cool and elegant northern European style and design thinking that has been at the heart of all LW projects; we are proud of our Scandinavian history, and it shows in our projects. As a result, the opening of our Denmark office has been a return to our roots and the establishment of strong ties between the UAE and Denmark, as seen in our design work.”

Battisby is continuously on the search for creative and interesting ideas to give his clients. “I strive to learn and be on the lookout for new ideas, to hear new voices and be receptive to opposing points of view. With Dubai being such a fast-paced place and construction environment, growth is happening at lightning speed, so keeping up is tricky, and so is telling your design story in a unique and authentic way. It is additionally challenging because clients want results quickly. But it is also nice in that we have an opportunity to tell the Arabian story in a modern way that is approachable to visitors and guests, who may have had a preconception about this part of the world. It is often romanticised but also greatly misunderstood,” comments Battisby. Battisby is full of admiration for his amazing team and he believes that it is vital for a leader to create an environment that encourages innovative ideas. “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas; the role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen,” he says.

Adrian Battisby, senior design director at LW

As Battisby works with more and more customers, he notices how the pandemic has shifted people’s perspectives. “Clients are requesting designs that provide more privacy and personal space, as well as information on visible sanitisation techniques and approaches. This has influenced luxury eco-resorts, private islands, private transportation, which could all be very exciting in terms of potential for design.” Battisby goes on to praise creative technology and how it has accelerated digital networking, cloud sharing, and remote working practices. He further goes on: “Kindness and understanding for one another is much more evident, I think this is because we all experienced COVID-19 together. Obviously, 2020 was a year of significant change, and how we use the lessons we’ve learned to become better people will be critical.” Despite the fact that there is a lot going on in the region in terms of design, technology, and creativity, Battisby believes there is still something more he would like to see. He says: “I’d like to see for more grassroots homegrown manufacturers and designers to create ethical, sustainable, and relevant products, and this does not imply more ‘craft markets’. Single-use plastics should be banned and recycling should be made mandatory.”

The LW Aarhus office is kept simple and functional. The large windows let in a lot of natural light and make the room appear larger

Sustainability is a priority for Battisby. He urges: “We must move to a much more sustainable world, and I mean that in all aspects of our life on this planet. The recent events of the past year have meant that we have been propelled into the future and we must adapt to it, through materiality, artisanal design, creating spaces with purpose and meaning. The world has changed, and we have a duty to design for that. We have always had sustainability and social conscience within our design processes, we now hope the construction industry and new construction methods, products and practices evolve rapidly to provide us with genuine sustainable construction solutions that are affordable, easy to install and maintain.”