MANAGING DIRECTOR + FOUNDER
From day one, Joe Tabet’s role as JT+Partners’ managing director and founder was to establish a vision that could be flexible and adapt to different market changes: The vision was to think and act big, and all was planned accordingly. Tabet manages the growth of the business in the UAE and Beirut, and is heavily involved in recruiting the right people. He firmly believes that his team is the key to the continuing success of JT+Partners, and ensures that the latest technology and softwares are always available to them. A firm believer in gender balance within the workplace, he also encourages his team to maintain a proper balance between work and family life. Whether a hotel development, residential project, commercial tower or an entire master plan, Joe’s success lies in the ability to conceive unique concepts with, of course, the help of his talented team. The firm ensures that each and every project is adding value at a social level by making a positive impact in people’s lives, as well the urban fabric. Coming from a background where nothing is easily achievable, Joe believes that “to get, you need to sweat”. This ideology has sculpted his character and created an urge for him to seek the right professional opportunities with the determination to succeed through commitment, hard work and self-development. Tabet is committed to deliver environmentally and socially sustainable communities in addition to cultural and aesthetic sensibilities. His balanced, holistic approach to environmental, social and economic considerations of each project ensures that the full potential of every opportunity is realised in a sustainable manner, all the while exceeding his clients’ expectations. An inspiration to designers and architects in the region, he has proven how an architect wearing different hats can achieve success.
Driven by design excellence, Shaun Killa is an award-winning architect with international experience spanning over 26 years. Throughout his career, Killa has focussed his design philosophy on buildings and masterplans that are sustainable, innovative, contextually inspired and have a holistic approach to the natural and economic environment which has led to numerous highly recognisable iconic projects.
Killa spent 16 years as Director of Architecture at Atkins before co-founding the Killa Design studio in 2015. He has worked on signature projects, including the award-winning designs for the Museum of the future, the newly opened The Address Beach Resort, a W Hotel in Mumbai, Vida Hotel in the Dubai Marina, Aykon Twin Towers in Dubai, and the Office of the Future, the first occupied printed building in the world. Recently the firm has won a zero energy ultra-luxury resort in the Red Sea.
Killa works closely with the associate partners on numerous projects in ensuring the highest design quality as well providing innovative and sustainable ideas. Throughout the design process, Killa also spends significant time mentoring and uplifting the diverse younger generation of architects in his office, where the flat structure of ‘design lead’ dialogue is highly encouraged within the studio and design team.
Killa’s further role has been to compete at the highest level in competitions against multiple international architectural firms for hospitality, cultural and mixed-use buildings. In many instances winning these whereby growing the firm from a few people to 80 strong within six years.
Killa has high praise for his team and they work closely with each other. Karsten Veith is the managing director at Killa Design. He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) with more than 25 years of experience in the construction sector. He started his career in Germany, then spent 6 years in Atkins’ Engineering Technology Group in the UK as well as in the Building Division in Dubai where he first met Shaun and Allel. After leaving Atkins, Veith established and grew an Engineering Consultancy in Abu Dhabi before he joined Killa Design in 2016.
Veith has vast experience with a broad variety of structures, including high rise buildings, educational and leisure facilities, office buildings, as well as rail projects, bridges, stadia, and oil platforms, with projects executed in Europe, the GCC, Africa and Asia. With a strong background in engineering, construction and management, he has been leading the team on several multidisciplinary projects as project director.
At Killa Design, Allel Hadri is a managing partner. He qualified Civil and Structural Engineer with a wealth of experience gained over 40 years in the UK, North Africa, and the ME, in particular the UAE. His experience covers business, client, project and design management and construction supervision.
Hadri has completed over 350 projects covering residential, commercial, hospitality, education, healthcare, industrial and leisure in the MENA region. Prior to the Killa partnership, Hadri was the Residential Director of the UAE and Iraq for SSH International.
In 2015, Hadri co-founded Killa Design with Shaun Killa, who was Director of Architecture at Atkins. The partnership flourished with landmark projects such as the Museum of the Future, The Address Beach Resort and Vida Marina Hotel to name a few. Regarding the expansion plans, Killa commented: “In the next two to three years Killa Design would like to establish a presence in the UK and China. The company is also growing its design abilities in KSA and Qatar where their focus is to contribute with a number of these mega projects and elevate the built an environment, increase internal and external tourism and to improve the work opportunities for their inhabitants.”
With over 15 years of professional experience in the design industry from renowned practices, Omar Abdelghafour founded award-winning multi-discipline design and architecture practice L.S.Design (Light Space Design) in 2004.
Born and raised in London, he received his masters in Transport Design and then Architecture from the UK. His professional practice has given him the opportunity to work in Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East. His ability to practice architecture globally enabled him to be invited to be part of the Venice Biennale of Architecture and Light, as a key note speaker.
Apart from mentoring, Abdelghafour is an active member of a variety of professional design and architectural platforms in the Middle East and Europe. His work is regularly published in global design publications from Europe to Asia.
For him, architecture is one part of “Design” as the language for life not a singular discipline. This philosophy translates into every aspect of how human interface and contextual accuracy is used in both his private and commercial architecture. It encompasses urban planning, product, furniture, lighting and even transport Design, resulting in the delivery of a detail-rich fully immersed designed environment. This is apparent in his diverse body of work. Abdelghafour has a regard for unique craftsmanship and refined aesthetics, with a firm belief that design should be passionate, dynamic and contextually relevant for the region in which its being delivered.
MANAGING & CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Michael Magill trained in the UK, and prior to joining RSP he was employed in a number of high profile international architectural practices and led design teams which have won numerous international architectural competitions. Magill opened RSP Dubai branch in 2009, and has since then expanded an initial design team of nine to over 70 professional staff today. Magill leads his diverse team with his extensive experience, critical thinking and analysing, to deliver highly complex and iconic projects. With his profound understanding of lifestyles translating into exemplary designs, he continues to succeed in the competitive landscape of MENA and win an array of exciting projects. Magill explains: “My role within the Dubai office is to lead the strategic direction of the company in terms of opportunities and engaging with clients. I am also the creative director and lead the design team in developing the architectural and interior design vision for all our projects. This involves me developing the design vision with our clients through workshops and presentations. I also head RSP Global Design group where I review projects across our global studios and add design intelligence and latest thinking. My active involvement with the Global Design group has allowed me this year to develop design projects in Russia, Cambodia, Singapore, and China.”
Globally RSP has completed numerous projects and the Dubai team at the start of 2020, handed over our signature project the Nakheel Mall on Palm Jumeirah. This was followed by the completion of a grade-A commercial project Dubai Hills Offices which we collaborated with Emaar. The team has also worked on a number of projects at the Expo site which include the interiors of a hotel which are nearing completion. “We recently won an international design competition to master plan a large hospitality and lifestyle development in Cambodia. This project is made up of a number of the reclaimed island that will form a high end Residential and Hospitality destination in the country. We are further developing the detailed master plan and starting the architectural components. We are currently working with leading phone manufacture on a number of their flagship stores globally and we are very excited to be involved in the newly announced store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We are also developing the design of a number of hospitality projects in Saudi Arabia,” shares Magill.
Commenting on the expansion plans, Magill says: “We are expanding into Saudi Arabia and hope to set up an office in the Kingdom mid this year to handle our projects there. We are very excited about the pace of development in the Kingdom and see several opportunities on the horizon. In parallel, we have been very active in Indonesia and our setting up a base in Jakarta to serve the country. Currently, we are serving the country from our Dubai and Singapore office. Indonesia has ambitious plans to expand its new developments and serve its growing population and we want to be part of that vision.”
MANAGING PARTNER, AMA
CHAIR OF RIBA GULF CHAPTER
Andy Shaw is an architect and educator based in Dubai. He is a key partner within AMA’s design team, who have just completed the striking centrepiece ‘Harbour Master’s Building’ in the new Dubai Harbour development. AMA’s floating hotel GAIA project features the fusion of emerging technologies to create a sustainable project connecting people with nature, two design themes that drive Andy’s design philosophy. The project was featured in Downtown Design’s ‘Shape of Things to Come’ exhibition and has since been published all over the world.
In 2020, Shaw was elected to the role of Chair of the RIBA Gulf and through the COVID period has helped RIBA create a digital output with webinars engaging audiences across the whole region and the rest of the world.
In November 2020, he helped create the first Dubai Architecture Festival during Design Week, a partnership between RIBA Gulf Chapter and Dubai Design District. He is a Visiting Professor of Architecture at Heriot Watt University, Dubai, teaching since 2016, design studios, an innovative cross-national climate change class and professional practice. Shaw has also consulted for the Dubai Future Foundation on how the city can change society’s approach to education and is a verified researcher for their work.
Shaw is passionate about how innovative technology and sustainable design can combine to improve the built environment for all citizens. He is currently working on several cutting-edge pilot projects involving 3D printed concrete and bio-crete. He is looking forward to bringing the design community together through RIBA social events in 2021, once the pandemic has passed, and the design industry can move forward making the region even better
FOUNDER + DESIGN DIRECTOR
Raya Ani is a multi-disciplinary architect and urban designer with more than 25 years of international experience having worked in Baghdad, Boston, Dubai, Germany, and New York City. She received her bachelor’s degree in Architectural engineering from Baghdad University with distinction, and her masters in Architecture from MIT, where she was awarded the prestigious Harvard/MIT Aga Khan Scholarship.
As the 2017 President of the American Institute of Architects-Middle East Chapter, she launched AIA Middle East in Iraq to empower Iraqi architects through a global platform. Her interests in melding innovation, sustainability, and technology, and her drive to empower and lead by example has resulted in her being the founder and design director of RAW-NYC Architects, an award-winning inter-disciplinary studio based in New York City and Dubai.
She had participated in a series of workshops as a volunteer to help build schools and homes for children in Tanzania. The well-acclaimed competition entry for the Bamiyan Cultural Center in Afghanistan, which won the merit award at the AIA International Region Awards in Prague, reaffirms her commitment to empower communities through design.
Through the canvases of her designs, Ani explores the powers of architecture as a pivotal tool of empowerment and transformation, inspiring architects and creatives across the world. Her works on the marshes of Southern Iraq in 2013, which received the AIA-ME honour award, aimed at inspiring and empowering the indigenous people of the region to restore the deteriorated ecosystem. In 2016, Raya was shortlisted from 43 leading women architects in New York to participate in an international competition to convert a women’s prison in Manhattan to an International Hub for Women’s empowerment.
CHAKIB RICHANI ARCHITECTS
Venezuelan-born Lebanese Chakib is known for his modern designs of the highest calibre. He has designed and realised various architectural projects in Lebanon, Europe and the Middle East, thanks to which Chakib gained international recognition. His buildings possess a poise that is rare in contemporary constructions of his region of the world. Scale exaggeration and repetition of architectural elements are partly responsible for this. There is a strong unifying concept that orchestrates the relationship of interior to exterior, the flow of the internal spaces and light, and the design and location of furniture that produce a harmonious entity. The light that penetrates into the spaces abundantly adds to the feeling of well-being.
Some of his works include the Zinc House Dubai, Amman Mansion, Elie Saab Apartments (Paris), Elie Saab Beirut Residence and Plantation House (Al Ain). In all his works, the architecture and interiors are minimalist, sophisticated, and infinite attention to details is given.
VICE PRESIDENT DESIGN, MENA PRACTICE LEAD URBANISM + PLANNING
AECOM CITIES LEAD
HEAD OF CONCEPT-ARCHITECTURE
Janus Rostock is a multi-award-winning architect, urban designer and master-planner who has led the design and delivery of several high-profile projects across several continents over the last +25 years.
His unique Scandinavian design ethos and leadership style has transformed places and teams through his inclusive, engaging and human-centric design approach. Janus utilizes evidence and data with an emphasis on co-creation, while always focusing on people, community and the pedestrian eye-level experiences. His trademark is creating architecture and urban design that is place-specific, celebrating local culture and tradition while looking to the future.
With more than +15 years in the Middle East and having led two of the largest architecture and urban design studios across the region, Rostock’s and his teams have positively contributed to ME cities and places becoming more community-oriented, inclusive and pedestrian-friendly. Environment, sustainability, and governance are at the forefront of every project ensuring sustainable architecture and urban design for future generations.
Having received his M.Arch from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Copenhagen, following a year at l’Ecole d’Architecture de Paris Belleville, Paris, Janus worked for Henning Larsen Architects and KHR in Denmark. Rostock moved to Dubai and joined Atkins in 2006, where he was part of the team delivering the Dubai Promenade and Cape Town Waterfront master plan. In 2008, he moved back to Denmark to start up Atkins’ architecture and design department in Copenhagen. He returned to the UAE in 2011 where he led the design of Dubai Opera and the Opera District, KIFAF, Prince Sultan Cultural Centre, Dubai Creek Harbor Phase one and Qiddiya to name a few.
Since joining AECOM in July 2018, Rostock has grown the firm’s almost 100 strong master planning, urban design, landscape and concept architecture practice, which is focused on solving the region’s most complex challenges and designing solutions that help people and communities thrive. Rostock and his team are currently involved in several of the regions highest profile projects including the masterplan and public realm design for Dubai Expo 2020, Dubai Harbor, NEOM regional plan, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh TOD and Riyadh Complete Communities, and several confidential competitions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE.
Rostock has accumulated extensive international experience as the lead concept designer on projects in the U.A.E, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Syria, Iran, India, Azerbaijan, Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Rostock is a founding board member of the Danish Green Building Council and a board member of The Danish Management Society (VL-94) MENA.
in 2010. Zoli’s initial role was to establish the subsidiary company in the UAE and create a base from where they could reach the GCC market. Now he manages the company in all its day-to-day activities but with an attention to the medium- and long-term strategies as well. Zoli explains: “I also overlook the contractual, financial and technical matters, including business development and client’s liaison. In a few words, we are able to adapt to different types and scales of projects, where the common background is the approach to design: creating sustainable and unique spaces which suit clients’ needs, expectations, and budget.”
Zoli studied architecture in Florence (Italy) where he graduated cum laude, receiving the Best Student of the Year award in 2002. His studies included a year spent at the University of Central England in Birmingham (UK) and a term at the New York University in New York City (USA). Soon after graduation, Zoli registered as a chartered architect and began post-graduate study, obtaining his PhD in Architecture Technology in 2007.
In 2010, Zoli was appointed managing director of M+N Architecture and since then he has been based in Abu Dhabi from where he has led the development of the company in the GCC market. In the past ten years of operations he has been exposed to all sides of the design business, overlooking the growth of the company which delivered over 200+ projects in the field of education, residential developments, mixed use, governmental buildings and interior design (in particular corporate offices, retail and hospitality).
The quality of the work of M+N has been recognised by several awards, in particular for sustainability and interior design. Zoli’s academic career is continuing in UAE, with collaborations as part time instructor and tutor for local universities.
Commenting on the expansion plans, Zoli says: “We already have four offices, one in Abu Dhabi (UAE), two in Florence, and one in Milan (Italy). Currently, we are more concentrating on re-thinking our strategies to make the most out of our current setup, even though we are always on the look-out for opportunities in other markets as well.” Projects by M+N Architecture include Khidmah/Provis HQ at Yas Mall, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi; new Cyber Security Department for New York University Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi; and others.
The current year looking promising for the M+N Architecture. Zoli says: “In 2021 Al Raha Lofts, a residential development with 168 units located in Al Raha Beach area of Abu Dhabi designed by our company will reach 100% completion and we should be on site soon with our project for the office building of the Ministry of Interior, for which we will be in-charge of the supervision for the next two years.”
PRINCIPAL + REGIONAL DESIGN LEAD
Matthew Engele heads the design for the international organisation’s Middle East region, which currently totals 70 employees. He is also a principal and as part of the regional executive management team is responsible for managing the Middle East business’s future strategic growth. Engele has been a key figure in Woods Bagot’s expansion into regions such as Morroco, with the design of The St Regis Hotel in Marrakesh and KSA with recent high profile competition wins.
His passion for sustainability has shaped and challenged the Middle East studio to design for environmental, social and economic sustainability. This can be seen in the highly sustainable & innovative MC2 – Masdar City project that was a Silver Winner at the recent World Architecture News awards 2020.
Engele also leads the ‘Diversity in Design Initiative’ for the Middle East studio, which has been set up to promote diversity within the design teams at Woods Bagot. 13 nationalities are currently collaborating within the Dubai office, 44% of the total management team and 55% of associates and associate principals are females, figures which continue to increase year on year. During 2021, Engele will continue to be focused on leading the Middle East studio’s high-performance design teams on high profile projects throughout the region.
Regarding expansion plans, Engele comments: “We currently operates in 16 different cities across the world and in Q1 of 2020, we successfully opened our Los Angeles office in the USA. We are constantly evaluating opportunities for growth into new markets and given our current workload of projects coming from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia we see great opportunities for continued growth in KSA. Other regions of growth in Egypt, with the successful launch of an exciting residential project in Cairo, as well as Morocco with the Woods Bagot design St Regis hotel set for construction in 2021.”
FOUNDER + PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT
ATI CONSULTANTS, ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS
Recognised as one of the most prominent architects in the region, Turkish architect Necdet Ajun is the founder and principal architect of ATI Consultants, Architects and Engineers which he established in 1980. Known for his rational approach, intelligent solutions, and delicate details, his core philosophy is to create universal and human-centric design solutions.
Mentor to several well-known architects and engineers in the region, his professor-like approach, distinctive style and desire for design excellence has made Ajun and ATI a preferred partner for many distinguished projects and clients that has resulted in the firm winning a number of prestigious design awards.
Before starting his own firm, Ajun worked as a senior architect for Hans Pfitzer Architects in Stuttgart, Germany until 1977. Subsequently, he was the manager and lead architect for German Gulf Consulting Engineers in the United Arab Emirates until 1980.
The success gained from his first project in the region, the Khorfakkan Royal Palace, perched on top of the mountain and one of Khorfakkan’s architectural landmarks, paved his way to settle in the UAE. Since then, he has been running his own practice in the UAE, where he has designed and completed over 700 successful projects worldwide and has organically grown the firm to become an award-winning, multi-disciplinary consultancy that encompasses several design disciplines, house of expertise, global offices and partnerships which actively complement the architectural core of the practice.
With more than 44 years of regional experience to his name, his work comprises some of the region’s most recognizable educational institutions, royal palaces, and residential complexes. Amongst them is the International School of Choueifat who has adopted his designs as a standard across many of their educational facilities around the world.
Celebrating the hard work and dedication over the last four decades as well as his creative vision for the future, ATI has recently moved into their new inspiring head office in Dubai. Ajun is currently actively pursuing the design of several educational and mixed-use projects worldwide and in the UAE. Some of the recent iconic works include the Sharjah Mosque project, a master-planned community and sustainable urban development project in the emirate of U.A.Q. and an upcoming iconic residential high-rise tower in Sharjah.
Drew Gilbert plays a role in envisioning and creating designs that enhance the lives of the various users and stakeholder of the projects. Gilbert provides motivation and mentors the team to develop design solutions, and quality production that creates sensitive, unique, and appealing design that is appropriate to its context. With the previous practise he played a major driving force in shaping the firm’s design ethos and projecting the firm to an international level, where he continues his passion to push the boundaries of design and create sustainable and simple solutions to enhance the built environment. From private villas to mixed-use communities, from boutique resorts to destination hotels, his macro to micro experience has led him to become a well-balanced designer with an eye for context, culture, and climate creating sustainable and lasting solutions profoundly relevant to place and purpose.
LEED Accredited, he is committed to a brighter future, advocating sustainable design strategies and cradle-to-cradle thinking for long term impacts on the built environment.
With more than 80 years of passion in the industry, OBMI has become renowned for architecture of luxury hotels, resorts, vacation destinations and residences that reflect the culture specific to their place spanning over nine offices globally including: USA, KSA, Dubai, Antigua, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Cayman Islands. Recently OBMI has expanded to Dubai and opened a large design studio, with plans to branching to Asia region.
STUDIO INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS (SIEC)
After growing up in Bulgaria and graduating from Sofia University of Architecture with a Master degree in 2006, Valentin Valchev started work in a well-established architectural company in Sofia. During his years in Bulgaria, Valchev participated in various architectural projects and competitions. One of these competitions – Design of the New Central Train Station – resulted in an Award for his work in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He first moved to Dubai in 2011, where he joined Aedas as a Design architect. During his stay in the company, Valentin worked on numerous residential, master planning, and transportation projects.
Valchev left Aedas to join DARA Architects in Doha, Qatar as a Senior Design Architect where he had a chance to lead the concept design for various projects. He relocated to Dubai in 2014, where he has been a resident since and is currently holding the position of Senior Associate at Studio International Engineering Consultants (SIEC).
Having been with SIEC for six years as a founding member, Valchev has been a key member in the growth of the company and has had extensive input on a range of projects from towers to single-family houses. The list of flagship projects Valchev has been involved in while at SIEC is extensive and includes: SZ21, Residence 138 Um Hurair, Mudon Residence, The Pulse Town Homes, The Heart of Business Bay, Al Gurair Tower, Saadiyat Island Hotel and Resort, The Pulse Gate Mall amongst others.
Valchev has exceptional design skills and extensive technical knowledge with a long track record of being part of successful design teams and possesses experience of working for international architectural companies.
Nigel Craddock joined IMKAN Properties four years ago with over 20 years of experience in both lead consultant and client-side design management roles, gained from working with leading organisations in the UK and MENA region. Craddock holds a BA(Hons) with a Diploma in Architecture and graduated as a chartered ARB RIBA Architect with a Certificate of Architectural Professional Practice from Plymouth University in his home country UK. His experience both regionally and internationally covers a wide variety of small and large-scale project types spanning multiple sectors.
Craddock has finished the Beach club at Makers District in partnership with Cove, which launched on November 27, 2020. The feedback from the community has been incredible and as the first public realm activation point in Makers District. He says: “We are super proud to have moved this project across the line under some very challenging circumstances. The project will continue to be enhanced and evolve over the coming months as we seek to further activate the North Beach zone, followed by the Northern Promenade of this 186,000sqm district site. The recently launched Makers District Beach is the only swimmable beach on Reem Island, offering guests an array of pursuits along its more-than-300m of beachfront.”
Craddock wants to keep working on high-quality architectural projects that genuinely add value to the built environment and people’s lives.
PRINCIPAL, GLOBAL DESIGN GROUP (GCC/CIS/INDIA),
GLOBAL DESIGN DEPARTMENT
In 2000, Dr Fadi Jabri joined Nikken Sekkei as an architect after obtaining a Ph.D. Degree in Engineering from the University of Tokyo. In 2014, he joined the board of directors, responsible for developing and overseeing Nikken Sekkei activities in MENA, CIS, and India regions. He brings to Nikken Sekkei strong international experience owing to his participation in high profile projects in over 20 cities, ranging from urban planning including waterfront, TOD developments, to mixed-use high rise, residential, hospitality, and education. In his projects, he works closely with the client and design teams to set out design direction and establish overall execution strategy for a project, from inception to completion. Jabri contributed to establishing Dubai, Riyadh, and Moscow offices and is currently establishing the office in India. He is also responsible for the corporate Global Branding Strategy of Nikken Sekkei Group. He is fluent in English, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian.
PIERRE MARTIN DUFRESNE
PARTNER AND DESIGN PRINCIPAL
Pierre Martin Dufresne graduated from the acclaimed Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism in Canada in the mid-90s before relocating to South East Asia where he attained his design knowledge on large-scale projects with HOK Asia Pacific in Hong Kong. Dufresne also worked in Singapore for three years as a senior design architect with award-winning Kerry Hill Architects. After moving to Dubai in 2005, his work has since matured on the multi-disciplined design on a variety of buildings types.
Throughout his career, Dufresne’s design has been instrumental in attracting highly regarded clients expecting only the finest quality development with an international elegance. He has worked closely and directly with prestigious clients such as Hines US, IBM PRC, China Tele-com PRC, Centrair Japan, Aman Resorts Singapore, GHM Hotels, Beaufort Group HK, and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company UAE to name a few.
Some of the other prestigious projects by U+A in the Middle East include Capital Centre Masterplan, Abu Dhabi; Dubai Properties- Marasi Floating Homes, Dubai; Amaala – Culinary Hotel & Resort, KSA; Emaar – Club Villas, Dubai Hills Estates, Dubai; ·Deyaar -Midtown, IMPZ – Dubai; MAF – Al Mouj Residential Development – Muscat; amongst others.
Since joining U+A architects in 2007, Dufresne has been the driving force for the design of many small to medium-scale projects in the region. He continues to perfect his craft by embracing new technologies and design tools. Understanding the fast pace of design, he is constantly championing the relevance of design in the new challenges stemming too often from the high demands of the real estate community.
Taking technology to another U+A was commissioned to undertake the concept design of a 3D printed home by Emaar that would serve as a module in design and workflow for future endeavours, which is to be located at The Arabian Ranches III. This project will serve as a precursor to a paradigm shift in architecture and the built industry, challenging traditional methods of construction and design.
Growing up in Dubai, Mihir Sanganee truly is a product and reflection of this region. His functional yet striking style and the delivery of a great customer experience at Designsmith has helped them sail through the pandemic and grow their client base.
Completing his Architecture degree at KRVIA, Mumbai, Sanganee spent the majority of this early-career on-site – overseeing the quality of the work being delivered. He combined this practical experience with his personal design capabilities and created his studio, Designsmith. Sanganee says: “Designsmith is my passion project, the team is my family and delivering an exceptional design solution is what we strive to do in every single project. We don’t do boring.”
2020 was a remarkable year for the studio as they didn’t lose steam with their projects and used the opportunity to reflect and eventually grow their team further. A renewed focus with a larger team helped Designsmith further enhance their quality as well as pace on current projects.
Gradually building their foundations for the last 7 years, Sanganee’s team completed and successfully delivered more than 30 projects last year, ranging from 1500sqft single unit lofts to commercial projects such as the award-winning “The Bowl One” outlet in DIFC and the hailed InnerFight gym in Studio City.
During the pandemic, Sanganee also supported fellow business owners and friends in pivoting the way they do business with strategic advice and support. With these regular virtual coffee sessions, experts from different industries helped SMEs break down their business hurdles and offered cross-functional actionable insights and solutions to these issues. In his personal life, he found the travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines to be the perfect excuse to finally explore the great outdoors of the UAE with plenty of hiking, trail running, and camping experiences with his wife and rescued dogs.
2021’s focus has been on extending their services to the clientele in Africa and as one of the few one-stop-shops in the region for architecture, interior design, furniture, joinery and fit-out, Designsmith is a preferred partner for residential and commercial projects of all scales. Their in-house Design & Build solutions offer a seamless, hassle-free experience for their clients.
This year is already off to a strong start with the team actively pitching and steadily growing and now stands at 15 members along with their 300+ strong in-house build team. Designsmith is currently expanding their studio in Al Quoz to a large, experiential hub for clients to immerse their senses in a world of locally and internationally-sourced finishes, materials samples, décor and design options. They aim to be the largest single destination in the UAE bringing together incredible designers and high-quality vendors, keeping client satisfaction as a key priority always.
GIORGIO PALERMO, FOUNDER
ELENA GREGORUTTI, PARTNER
Italian architect Giorgio Palermo founded the company in 2001, under the name of Studio Ati. In 2006, architect Elena Gregorutti joined the practice as a partner. Together they continue to make their indelible mark on the design scene.
Niu- a division of Studio Ati evolved from a successful strategic rebranding exercise Over the past year, they have collected several prestigious industry accolades and awards, further enhancing their reputation for design excellence in the region and beyond.
For almost a decade, Palermo and Gregorutti’s design eloquence and expertise have been much sought after by discerning wealthy clients for whom they designed luxurious residences in the region’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Working in tandem with their multi-national design team, Niu creates award-winning residential commercial, retail and hospitality projects as well as a high-rise tower in the trendy Dubai Marina.
The duo is driven by their passion for design, their keen eye for detail, quality and perfection. Their unique approach is much appreciated by their clients who enjoy being a part of the creative process. One of their greatest strengths is their ability to listen to and interpret clients wishes and requests. Their Niu approach is rooted in collaboration and respect. This ensures that each project is one of a kind.
Clients appreciate this flexibility, and the design team’s versatility and vast experience enable them to design any style, be it classical or minimalist. There is no compromise, however, when it comes to quality. They insist upon only using the highest quality materials and furnishings while paying the minutest attention to detail, and the opulent finishing touches that contribute to a unique, balanced space. Their award-winning trademark style is an inviting fusion of Middle Eastern and European influences that blend to create a harmonious and timeless environment.
Palermo and Gregorutti are honoured to have received numerous prestigious design awards and recognition from the industry. Niu’s distinguished designs featuring a subtle fusion of Middle Eastern and European influences are often seen in prestigious design and lifestyle magazine titles.
As design director at Aedas, Ignacio Gomez has been responsible for a number of key projects and establish the overall design direction of the practice in the Middle East. Designing many projects in the region including master planning, hotel and leisure, residential, transport, and cultural projects. He is currently leading a team for the design of the Dubai Metro Expo extension, Route 2020, two five start new hospitality project currently under construction in Dubai + residential masterplan in Jebel Ali.
Gomez also was design director at Godwin Austen Johnson, where he designed relevant project for the region, Al Seef project in the historical part of Dubai in the Creek and the Phase 1 of the Kingdom Tower Masterplan. Before moving to the Middle East, he collaborated with B720 & David Chipperfield. For over two years, he worked on the New City of Justice, awarded with the prestigious 2010 RIBA Award. Working a very diverse portfolio that included Torre Agbar commercial tower, designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel and America’s Cup Foredeck Building design by David Chipperfield. His work has been published in various publications including Fisuras Magazine, Future Architecture Magazine, Via Arquitectura, 2A, Middle East Architect and Construction Week, and some of the most visited architecture blogs like Dezeen and Archidaily.
Gomez collaborates as guest critic at the School of Architecture & Design of the American University of Sharjah, UAE and regular speaker in different conferences in the MENA region as the World Architecture Congress in Dubai, Architectural Design Days in Riyadh, DesignMENA summit, Cityscape Global Conference and Leaders of Architecture.
As managing and design director at Aedas Middle East, Gomez seeks to provide unique and individual solutions for every project and take pride in the fact that we never follow the route of formulaic design. His designs are based on deep research process and understanding of the region – its people, its culture, its history, its present and its future. The research rooted in the past makes it possible to create a unique story behind every project.
French-Lebanese architect Galal Mahmoud graduated in 1986, from l’Ecole d’Architecture in Versailles and in 1987, made his first steps in the world of professional architecture, in the capital that blends character with style and classical art with a contemporary influence, Paris.
Due to his diverse background, Mahmoud naturally adopts a multicultural approach in all of his undertakings. His ability to seize the spirit of a place and to capture the diversity of its influences, allows him to cast a global and authentically contextual vision on each project.
GM Architects specialises in the field of high-end tourism, notably in the creation of luxury hotels and resorts. It has successfully left a mark on a wide array of countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, France, Greece, Turkey, Senegal and Morocco. The firm increasingly solicited for large-scale developments, ensures effective global design management and constantly develops its international proficiency.
GM Architects is the only Middle Eastern practice referenced by Accor, Rotana, Starwood and Rezidor, for the quality of its services, the appropriateness of its choices and the capacity to deliver a project that meets the requirements of the major hotel chains in terms of international standards. Its creative approach to projects expresses the singular philosophy of the Franco-Lebanese architect Galal Mahmoud.
GM Architects’ approach is holistic and inter-disciplinary, relying on the wealth of knowledge and wisdom inherent in progressive multicultural, technologically appropriate and socially pertinent paradigms.
The practice employs 40 professionals including architects and interior designers and is managed by architect Mahmoud and partners Randa Chahine, Anwar Hajj, and Elie Waked.
Sumaya Dabbagh is a Saudi architect educated in the UK. She founded Dabbagh Architects in 2008. The practice set out to create contemporary architecture that is culturally and environmentally sensitive. A timeless architecture that creates a positive impact on the world.
Following an education at Bath University, Dabbagh began her career in London and Paris. Her return to the Gulf region was part of a quest to gain a deeper understanding of her own identity, a unique mix of influences and sensitivity towards both Western and Middle Eastern cultures.
As the first RIBA Chartered practices in the Gulf region, Dabbagh Architects is known for their quality-driven design. The practice undertakes diverse sectors, such as commercial, residential, educational, as well as cultural projects. The multi-award-winning Mleiha Archaeological Centre is globally recognised as a significant example of a new emerging approach to architecture in the UAE. Al Ain Museum as well as the Mosque of Light projects are currently ongoing and are recent additions to their portfolio of sensitive, contextual designs. Dabbagh is currently undertaking prestigious cultural projects in Saudi Arabia.
Dabbagh Architects’ projects were showcased as part of the RIBA/d3 Dubai Festival of Architecture during Dubai Design Week 2020, under the theme of “Emerging Architecture in the Gulf”.
Mohamed Ali is the associate director at RMJM. He joined the organisation in 2013, as a senior architect and BIM Lead, having over 14 years of industry experience in the UAE and winning a BIM Award in 2011. “When I began at RMJM I was tasked with developing pre-contract project delivery technology and techniques and implementing BIM Level 2. Four years later, RMJM Dubai was recognised as one of the best BIM practices in the region. To me architecture is a puzzle with a finite number of pieces; every piece counts and makes a difference. My passion is to find the missing pieces and pull them together into a fantastic workflow. Technology has allowed us to return to the glory of the great architects of history and allowed the architects to build again. This is my role; to build virtual mockups and electronically smooth out any issues or complications before construction,” shares Ali. His role is to provide consistent leadership for activities centred on initialising a project’s direction and planning, programming, design, technical application coordination, graphic depiction and publish-grade documents.
Ali has developed over 25 projects of various scales from high and mid-rise residential buildings, luxury villas, hospitality, mixed-use retail, commercial, industrial and office buildings to master planning. His objective is to develop ideas that will expand my team’s creative skills by providing neat, successful and efficient building design solutions for every project.
Some of the recent project by RMJM includes Riyadh Township, Riyadh, KSA; Creative District, Cairo Egypt; Thaker Gate Development, KSA; Innovation Hub Phase 2, Dubai Internet City, Dubai, UAE; and others.
ARCHITECTURE DESIGN DIRECTOR
GENSLER MIDDLE EAST
As Architecture design director of Gensler Middle East, Raj leads a practice delivering high-profile commercial, hospitality and lifestyle projects throughout the region and Asia. Raj’s experience across different cultures influences his design approach as he weaves traditional and modern architecture into contemporary designs relevant to their cultural and contextual settings. A passionate designer, he exhibits care in creating rich, unique, and aesthetically iconic facades that not only respond to the program of the internal spaces but also the harsh external climatic environment.
Patel earned a Bachelor of Architecture (Hons) from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Architecture from Yale University. He is a registered American Architect and moved to the region 20 years ago. Patel frequently speaks at conferences and events with an aim to engage in conversations that influence design trends as well as participates in design review panels at several universities.
Recently, Patel has led the studio towards a successful design of the Diplomatic Quarter Development in Riyadh and Alembic Office Building in Bangalore during the on-going pandemic as Gensler implemented remote working for its worldwide employees. The transition to collaborating virtually with clients and the studio was seamless and led to new efficient design processes. With numerous other significant office headquarters, education, mixed-use and retail, and residential projects completed or in development, Patel aims to expand his practice outside the GCC with a keener focus on North Africa and Asia-Pacific markets.
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR – ARCHITECTURE
ARCADIS MIDDLE EAST
As a technical director, Ruan Davey is responsible for leading the architectural discipline for the Middle East region. Armed with over 21 years of experience in design, delivery and project management of high-profile building projects in the UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Africa and Namibia, Davey has led architectural services for several prestigious construction projects including Lusail Plaza Towers in Qatar, La Mer (Jumeirah Open Beach) in Dubai, The Red Sea Coastal Village and Al Bujairi F&B Terrace projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In the past, Davey has also led the Technical Advisory team at New York University, Saadiyat Island and the multi-disciplinary design delivery of City Walk and Dubai Hills Mall. “I was instrumental in the development of a ‘one team’ delivery approach where our on-shore and off-shore architectural design teams worked together to ensure seamless project delivery across all design phases. As a result of the recent global pandemic, we’ve had to radically adapt our methods of working across different geographies to ensure continued delivery to our key clients. I enjoy the challenges provided by large multidisciplinary projects and value the importance of truly understanding client needs and realising projects from concept to completion without compromising on the highest design standards. I believe that close collaboration with all the project stakeholders and a lean design approach is the key to successful project delivery.”
He was the lead architect for Wasat Al Awamiya Community development in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The project received several accolades and was unveiled at a red carpet ceremony by the Governor and Mayor of the Eastern Province.
Davey and his team are currently involved in the design of 4 hyper luxury hotels in the Red Sea and Lusail Plaza Towers’ delivery in Qatar.
MOHAMED AL ASSAM
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN + FOUNDER
DEWAN ARCHITECTS + ENGINEERS
Mohamed Al Assam has a successful leadership track record of over 39 years with a private practice in GCC, Middle East, and North Africa. Past expertise includes several domains such as executive in charge of design section, controlling a team of architects, preparation of complete architectural design package for master-planning projects, multi-storey buildings, luxurious villas, and palaces. As a chairman of the Board of Directors, Al Assam has participated in setting the strategic direction of Dewan Architects + Engineers. With his sound strategic awareness in business development, the firm has achieved several international awards and nominations.
Al Assam has also played a role in leading the firm towards sustainable design. Over the past few months, many of the firm’s projects have won LEED accreditation. Dewan is currently staffed with over 300 professionals and working on an extensive portfolio of projects in various sectors and across 10 countries in the GCC, Africa, and Asia.
GODWIN AUSTEN JOHNSON (GAJ)
A highly successful and well-respected architect, Jason Burnside graduated from the University of Dundee in 1996, and spent five years with a small urban design practice in London before moving to Dubai to join GAJ in 2001.
Burnside was made a partner is 2008, and as a team leader, he aims to deliver holistic projects that are highly functional, energy-efficient and engaging. While he is an experienced architect across many different sectors, it is the education sector where he really shines.
Burnside has forged long term relationships with clients resulting in repeat business on more than one occasion. It was Jason’s involvement with the Ladybird Early Learning Centre and The Arcadia School’s primary campus that saw the client award GAJ the third school in the portfolio – the recently completed Arcadia School’s secondary campus.
In the space of a month, Burnside has handed over two new projects – the new Arcadia School’s secondary campus in Dubai and the new SPACE (Sports and Performing Arts Centre of Excellence) at Dubai College with work continuing on the ISG School in Saudi Arabia.
As an expert in his field, Burnside is also highly sought after as a speaker and is regularly found on the stage at industry events such as The Big 5 and Cityscape Global. Burnside’s desire to create great architecture is clear to see within his vast experience which ranges from concept through to award-winning built projects and, as one of the longest-serving architects in the firm, he has designed and delivered some of GAJ’s high profile projects including Serenia Residences on The Palm Jumeirah, Mysk Al Mouj in Muscat, The Gate Village DIFC in partnership with Hopkins & Partners; Helel Residence and the Federal National Council in partnership with Ehrlich Architects.
He currently leads a team of highly skilled architects all with different strengths and approaches and all working on different projects. He continues to be hands-on in designing projects and mentoring his team.
GAJ has completed a number of projects over the last 12 months including Vida Creek Harbour, Dubai; The Arcadia School’s Secondary Campus; Garden Bay residential development in northern India; Hilton Garden Inn Kuwait; Midscale hotel in Kuwait; The SPACE at Dubai College; amongst others.
David Lessard is a partner and design director at H+A; an architecture and interior design studio specialising in healthcare, hospitality, and wellness design. A native of New York City with and graduate of the prestigious Pratt Institute School of Architecture, his portfolio features notable works with internationally acclaimed firms such as Perkins+Will, Allied Works, and Rafael Vinoly Architects. Lessard ’s design ethos adheres to a philosophy that form and material are a direct response to context, culture and environment. Understanding the local vernacular and respect for the human scale are essential undertones to his design thinking. He believes design can create opportunities for well-being in all senses of the term – enhancing the way we work, live and play through thoughtful designs that are relevant, creative and fit for their intended purpose – responsibly future-proofed and sustainable.
He has held a seat on the AIA Middle East Chapter Board of Directors. As Membership Director he has contributed to the growth of the regional chapter, which in his tenure has become the largest international chapter worldwide. Lessard is active in the wider design community as a design critic, lecturer, conference participant and contributing editor – with articles in major regional publications, participation on design awards juries, and invited speaker on international platforms such as Downtown Design, Index Design Talks, and Arabian Travel Market -demonstrating his thought leadership in hospitality design.
DESIGN DIRECTOR + MASTER PLANNER
Ivar Krasinski is an architect with 25 years of experience, working as the design director and master planner for EDGE. He has designed and delivered over 14 Million square feet of buildings and worked on master plans totalling over 5000 hectares.
Starting his career in sports architecture, some of his early projects include Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Cleveland Browns, and Bahrain National stadium. Not limited to large sports projects, Krasinski has also worked on designs for Dubai Motor City, KAEC, KAFD, creating a large mixed-use and master planning portfolio, which merges large complex data streams and optimises performance by balancing the public realm requirements, environmental consciousness, use mix and financial models, all while creating human spaces where life and family can thrive.
His projects have won multiple recognitions, including the multi-award-winning 1/JBR and award for the most sustainable hospital for Al Mafraq Hospital.
Krasinski’s main focus professionally is the application of the multi-disciplinary Integrated Design Process (IDP) approach and the way it reduces the embodied energy and overall energy use of buildings while reducing both capex and opex.
Net Zero and pandemic-responsive design are at the top of his agenda today, and he leads a multi-disciplinary team in the design of a large mixed-use development in Masdar Sustainable City, with true Net Zero components (without the use of offsets, but equal energy produced as used), 4 pearl Estidama buildings, multiple LEED platinum, as well as WELL Gold buildings.
GROUP DESIGN DIRECTOR
BREWER SMITH BREWER GROUP (BSBG)
Michael Lewis leads +studio, the Brewer Smith Brewer Group (BSBG) design hub. He is a highly intuitive and creative design leader, focussed on producing experiential architecture for people. Lewis’s project portfolio includes Dubai projects The Beach, La Mer, the vision for Nikki Beach, City Walk, Ferrari World on Yas Island, and most recently for BSBG the award-winning Visa Headquarters building and SHA Emirates in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis’ enthusiasm for all facets of design is instantly infectious, and he is a renowned motivator and mentor for talented young designers. His principles are founded upon an understanding of how people use and interact with space, and his work is targeted at creating an emotive connection between the architecture and the end-user.
“One of the concepts I believe in incredibly strongly, is that design is not necessarily just about the architecture,” Lewis explains. “It’s also about the spaces in and around the buildings and having an understanding of what people perceive. Great design never loses focus of the end-user.”
Having joined BSBG in late 2019, Lewis has overseen the expansion of BSBG’s design studio, which now has prestigious projects in London and Saudi Arabia to add to its already impressive portfolio.
BSBG +studio has recently been engaged to design multiple expansive projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – now the key market in the Middle East, and BSBG is close to formally announcing its establishment of a permanent base in Riyadh.
AHMED AL-ALI + FARID ESMAEIL
UAE-based Ahmed and Farid graduated from the American University of Sharjah with degrees in architecture. They both set up X Architecture in 2003. X-Architects projects and work have gained continuous recognition and have been exhibited in international reputed venues like Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London in 2011 and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen 2014. In 2010, Ahmed was honoured with the prestigious and one of the highest ranked local awards, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders. Ahmed ardently contributes to various research projects and has collaborated on Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council Building and neighbourhood guidelines. He is a board member of the Canadian University of Dubai, the UAE University of Al Ain and the Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi. Ahmed recently lectured and joined a panel discussion called ‘Housing the Spring’ at Harvard University.
Farid’s work has been recognised internationally through various awards. He was awarded the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction 2008, the Arc Middle-East award for Architecture 2009 and 2010, the Cityscape Award for Sustainable master plan. Farid has lectured and in various universities and institutions worldwide. He was a speaker at TEDx in Abu Dhabi, Harvard University, University of Toronto and Doha Architecture Forum. He exhibited and contributed to Venice Biennale 2008, 2014 and 2016, Louisiana museum of modern Art and Archiprix.