The fifth edition of the DesignMENA summit will take place on 5 December, 2017, at the Grosvenor House hotel in Dubai, featuring Minsuk Cho as the keynote speaker.
An annual conference held for the past five years, the designMENA Summit is a highly anticipated industry event that offers numerous opportunities for regional industry professionals to network, promote their work, and exchange knowledge.
While suppliers and manufacturers look to market their latest product ranges and discuss upcoming trends with visitors, industry leaders will take the stage in panel discussions and project presentations during the day-long conference.
Topics will include speed, quality, and design integrity; value engineering; and repurposed architecture, among many others. Speakers include Tariq Khayyat from Zaha Hadid Architects; and Sneha Divias, founder of her namesake award-winning design atelier. Most recently, architect and founder of the Seoul-based Mass Studies, Minsuk Cho, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker.
On the pages ahead, we meet the event’s 14 sponsors, who tell us what they’re looking forward to most, and what attendees can hope to gain from the conference. From MAS Paints to Cosentino, Kvadrat to Huda Lighting, our sponsors vary in their backgrounds and offerings, bolstering the event’s dynamic structure.
The designMENA Summit will be held on 5 December at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina. To get involved, visit www.designmena.com/summit.
Louise Pitt, Marketing Manager
Among the silver sponsors this year is Geberit, a global leader in the field of sanitary products, which is supporting the event for the third year in a row. Expecting to once again have chance to meet with leading UAE architects and designers at the conference, the company says it is an important event in which to participate and showcase its latest products.
Louise Pitt, marketing manager, comments: “Dubai is an ambitious city and there are a lot of expectations for the next project to be unveiled. Everybody is looking for something unique, and this is good for designers and architects, as well as for Geberit, as we spend a lot on research and development, and continually support designers and architects with our new portfolios of innovative and sustainable solutions.”
According to Pitt, architects are always looking for solutions to specific challenges they have at hand. “Geberit puts particularly high demands on the design of the interfaces between sanitary technology and the user. Geberit is not only a supplier of high-quality products; we provide all-round services with our technical know-how and regional support.”
Geberit’s product lines comprise sanitary systems, such as installation systems, cisterns and mechanisms, faucets and flushing systems, waste fittings and traps, as well as showers and toilets, and piping and drainage. Recent launches include Geberit Brenta and Piave wall- and deck-mounted faucets, the Setaplano shower surface, and the AquaClean Mera shower toilet.
“We invest a lot in research and development, leading the way to provide perfect water solutions, with reduced-consumption, energy-saving, low-noise, durable products. We apply competence and expertise at every stage, from development through to delivery. As such, we can guarantee that the development tendencies and trends are identified, analysed, and implemented in good time,” concludes Pitt.
Abdullah Al Atrash, Vice Managing Director
DesignMENA Summit’s silver sponsor, MAS Paints, was founded 20 years ago in Saudi Arabia, as a distributor of wood and decorative paint. MAS established its paint manufacturing in Italy in 1990, and four years later set up its factory in the UAE’s Jebel Ali Free Zone – MAS Paint and Chemical Industries.
“This is the second year that MAS Paints is sponsoring the event,” says Abdullah Al Atrash. “It is a great initiative, and has the participation of international and local experts who share their knowledge, experiences, and visions.”
Commenting on the main challenges that the industry is currently facing, Al Atrash describes past 12 months as having been “turbulent”.
“I think designers and architects are not completely satisfied with the way they are included, and express the need to be included in all conversations with owners, contractors, and key fabricators, from the beginning of project.”
DecoMAS, the application division of MAS Paints, has to its credit work done in palaces, government buildings, five-star hotels, and high-end villas in the UAE.
“Alba is our latest release, which takes inspiration from the colours of the sunrise. A water-based decorative wall paint, it contains a pearlescent pigment, which creates a metallic finish,” says Al Atrash.
Another recently launched product from the company is Microcem, a decorative and resurfacing paint that mirrors the effects of concrete.
Along with its new factory in Sharjah, MAS Paints has a strong presence Saudi Arabia. The firm’s distribution network covers the Gulf region, India, Egypt, Yemen, and Kazakhstan.
Hanine Chehayeb, Business Development Manager
Italian home-automation company, Vimar, signed on as silver sponsor of the designMENA Summit to better establish itself and its products within the Gulf region. According to business development manager, Hanine Chehayeb, Vimar hopes to highlight its latest creative solutions, which come in a range of material and colour options.
The new product ranges include the Tactil range, which consists of cover plates for the touch controls from Vimar’s Eikon luxury collection of wiring devices. The Tactil products are now available in a wider range of luxury finishes, including solid wood, natural leather, carved stone, and Corian, in addition to the original crystal.
Another product range from Vimar is Tab 7, which boasts new monitors and internet protocol (IP) technology for video door-entry systems.
“Tab 7’s elegant and sober design features revolutionary functions, built-in Wi-Fi, and a video door app, which allows for call repetition on smartphones, and supports scalable solutions for both homes and large building complexes,” Chehayeb says.
“We will also be launching Arke, a new range of wiring devices for the quality mid-segment, which will be available in the Middle East soon.”
In sponsoring the conference, Vimar hopes to network with leading professionals who will provide further insight into upcoming trends.
Kamal Farah, CEO
Abanos is a proud supporter of the designMENA Summit for a variety of reasons, according to CEO, Kamal Farah. “The most notable [of these reasons] is the excellent reputation of the event, which attracts more than 150 senior architects and commercial interior designers from the region’s most influential firms,” he says, adding: “The event is a highlight on the design calendar.”
A newcomer to the designMENA Summit, silver sponsor and fit-out company, Abanos, was established in 1985, and has steadily expanded in the three decades since. It now operates throughout the UAE and GCC markets.
Most recently, the firm won a US $3m contract for the upcoming Art Centre Mall in Dubai. A landmark project for Abanos, the project will involve the use of state-of-the-art joinery and fit-out techniques to create stand-out features, including a contemporary ceiling and a custom-made aluminium mashrabiya, Farah explains.
“The UAE’s design and architecture industry is a globally recognised hub for creativity in the Middle East. Thinking globally and acting locally is one of the most exciting challenges in this region, going forward. This is an industry that has particular requirements for natural resources and, therefore, needs a supply chain that recognises the importance of sustainable development,” he adds.
The CEO says that Abanos is looing forward to participating in the discussions at the conference, which will address key industry issues, identifying trends and highlighting opportunities for business development.
“Abanos expects future big projects to form a central part of the designMENA Summit, and is excited to share its own big announcements with all its industry peers in attendance,” Farah says.
Miriam Llano, Marketing Manager
Cosentino, a producer of natural stone, quartz, and technologically advanced surfaces, is a continuing supporter of the designMENA Summit, and this year is the event’s associate sponsor.
The company feels that mutual collaboration across the regional design industry is vital for its further growth, and that the summit provides an ideal platform for this.
“The designMENA Summit not only brings together top designers and architects under one roof, but also attracts professionals who are eager to learn something new, to innovate, and to share their knowledge,” says Miriam Llano, Cosentino’s marketing manager.
Advanced technological solutions have enabled the company to produce surfaces Dekton and Silestone, which can be used in applications from flooring to façades. They are resistant to fire, heat, scratching, UV light, staining, and hydrolysis, and are also stable in colour and form.
Cosentino is positive about the opportunity for continued growth in the GCC’s construction industry, and has recently opened a showroom in Dubai Design District. Designed as an information and service centre for architects and interior designers, rather than a typical showroom, Cosentino City aims to attract visitors with a “sensorial experience”.
“Designers will be able to define, create, and visualise their projects with the latest IT equipment, which is available in the showroom,” says Llano.
Sufyan Al Masalmeh, Sales Manager
For healthy-living solutions manufacturer and associate sponsor, Renson, the designMENA Summit is a great way to contribute to the architectural community across the GCC, and to highlight recent projects and new products, according to sales manager, Sufyan Al Masalmeh.
Renson recently launched a vertical wall cladding system, Linarte, which has a façade that can be finished with LED strips, wood, aluminium, and other inserts. The company has also released its first vertical external shade for corner windows, Panovista Max, and a retractable aluminium pergola called Skye.
By the end of 2017, Renson plans to have completed its projects in the UAE, which include a louvers and sun protection system at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Eric Berchtold, Director of Middle East and Africa
A newcomer to the designMENA Summit, USM is looking forward to interacting with designers and architects from across the Middle East at the annual event. “It allows us to introduce industry professionals to the modular nature of USM products,” says Eric Berchtold, director of the Middle East and Africa at USM.
“Our products can be curated to complement their design visions, with the option of varying functions, sizes, colours, and light options.”
According to Berchtold, topics such the impact of European trends in the regional market, and the rising demand for community spaces are likely to be on the conference’s agenda. “I also expect to discuss sustainable design, with a strong focus on quality and durability,” he adds.
USM recently launched the Haller E System of dimmable lamps, which can accommodate USB chargers for mobile devices, is available in 14 colours, and can be configured to any size.
Ali Maarrawi, General Manager
OFIS, an interior solutions provider offering modular furniture and flooring for the corporate, education, healthcare, and hospitality sectors, joins this year’s designMENA summit as associate sponsor. For general manager, Ali Maarrawi, the conference is an opportunity to further increase brand awareness among architects and interior designers in the region.
“Our presence at the event augments our brand promise of being a one-stop shop for premium but cost-effective furniture and flooring solutions,” he says. “The event attracts the biggest and brightest names to debate, discuss, and divulge the latest thinking, so it was only logical for OFIS to be associated as a sponsor, as we believe in furthering our knowledge and sharing best practice and expertise. It helps us in the long run as well, because we position ourselves as a partner to our clients by providing them holistic solutions rather than being just a service provider.”
Creating work environments that seamlessly integrate technology, promote creativity, and foster innovation is one of the challenges designers face today, according to Maarrawi.
“Work used to be driven by efficiency. The process was intentionally linear and divided into parts in which people could specialise. But the problems we face today are so much more complex. They require creative thinking.”
Frazer Butcher, Regional Sales Manager
Associate sponsor, Kvadrat, says the designMENA Summit comes at an exciting time, as the UAE is establishing itself as a design hub.
According to regional sales manager, Frazer Butcher, Kvadrat is launching two new products this year: Fabric Systems Tracks, and Fabric Systems Baffles. The former is a site-fabricated, acoustic wall system in which textile is stretched over semi-rigid acoustic padding to control sound. The design allows for free-form curves, decorative reveals, or three-dimensional surfaces. The latter, meanwhile, is a baffle system that has been designed to meet the sound attenuation requirements of large spaces that do not allow for suspended ceilings, or for areas that require the use of additional sound-absorption materials.
Metropolitan Air Technology
Mike Blaha, General Manager
Associate sponsor Metropolitan Air Technology’s support of designMENA is driven by the company’s desire to build and cultivate relationships with the region’s architectural community that echo those that the firm has already established in North America, according to general manager, Mike Blaha.
“The event brings together some of the most prominent architects and interior designers working in the region today, so it’s a perfect audience for us to engage,” he explains.
Blaha expects community design in urban settings to be a hot topic at the summit, and says it will be interesting to learn how this holistic approach is being implemented, particularly in Dubai.
Having recently introduced to the Middle East its line of remotely operated balancing dampers, which aim to solve mechanical system problems and eliminate the need for access panel ceilings, Metropolitan Air Technology hopes to boost awareness of its products within the regional industry.
Marcos Bish, Managing Director
Established two decades ago, Summertown Interiors is a UAE-based fit-out contractor that specialises in eco-friendly and sustainable solutions. The company is the sustainability sponsor at the conference this year.
Marcos Bish, managing director at Summertown, is looking forward to connecting with the regional design community. “At Summertown, we pride ourselves on our commitment to delivering high-end projects, working alongside architects, designers, project managers, and contractors to fulfil our clients’ requirements. We are huge advocates of collaborative thinking and the sharing of ideas between colleagues, other companies, and industry networks. The designMENA Summit is a brilliant platform for sharing industry knowledge, partnering on projects, and growing the UAE industry.”
Bish sees the upcoming introduction of value-added tax (VAT) in the GCC as a potential challenge for many businesses in the short term.
“Although, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the introduction of VAT will not adversely affect economic growth in the UAE and GCC, the short time frame that companies have been granted in which to submit their impact assessments ahead of the implementation in January 2018, is a challenge,” he explains.
Summertown recently launched a healthcare division in response to the growing need for fit-out contractors to cater to this sector. The company also released its second Sustainability Report for 2016/17, prepared in accordance with the Global Initiative’s (GRI) G4 guidelines.
“The 2016/17 report represents an important milestone for Summertown as we continue on our journey to embed sustainability into every aspect of the business,” says Bish, adding that sustainability reporting in the corporate setting can not only elevate a company’s green initiatives, but also improve its relationships with investors and clients, in line with stakeholders’ demands for transparency and accountability.
Rola El-Rass, Communications Manager
The opportunities to network with industry players are an important part of the designMENA Summit, says gift-bag sponsor, Huda Lighting.
The company was established back in 2000 as a lighting supplier in Beirut, Lebanon. Within 17 years, Huda Lighting had positioned itself as a major player in that market, and has now expanded its operations to include nine branches throughout the Middle East, a showroom in Dubai, and a staff count of more than 130 lighting specialists.
The company is looking to explore hospitality and retail project opportunites, and examine the latest lighting trends in the region, which it believes is one of the most progressive in the world when it comes to design.
Rola El-Rass, communications manager, says: “The designMENA Summit is an excellent networking event – it brings together some of the most prominent designers and architects in the region.
“Dubai is always up-to-date with the latest trends, using the latest technologies in their industries.”
Huda Lighting is promising more prestigious projects completed and more lighting-solution options on offer from its top-of-the-line brands during the coming year.
The company continues to strive towards its vision of being the lighting supplier of choice in the region by growing its presence in the Middle East, and expanding and diversifying its products and services.
Patrick Bean, Design Director
Taking on the role of social media sponsors in order to promote dialogue and debate is Lacasa Architects and Engineers. With offices in Dubai, Saudi, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Australia, the multidisciplinary architectural design firm was founded eight years ago by Emad Jaber and Nabil Al Khaja.
“Lacasa has been a strong advocate for professional development, and the transference of knowledge throughout the industry. The designMENA Summit is a great opportunity to discuss regional trends, as well as to share the best practices in design,” says Patrick Bean, who joined the company last year as its design director.
Bean says sustainable design should be in the spotlight at this year’s conference. “The construction industry generates up to 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, making it the top global consumer of raw materials. Consequently, the architects of 2017 have a responsibility to design buildings that are socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable.”
Bean adds that one of the biggest challenges architects and designers face is that sustainable options are often neglected and considered of secondary importance early on in the design process. “While the ecological damage caused by the construction of buildings presents a huge challenge to architects today, those architects who take up the challenge will find themselves in great demand in the growing green sector,” he says.
“It is now widely accepted that poorly designed buildings are hard to sell and lease,” he adds. “It is becoming more and more unacceptable to offer inefficient, generic design to a design-savvy public.”
Sergio Padula, Technical Director
Lanyard Sponsor this year is iGuzzini, a lighting company that has supported the designMENA Summit since its inception. Sergio Padula, technical director, considers the event an important platform for the region’s industry.
“In line with our company’s mission and vision, we aim to contribute to education, and to the culture of promoting good-quality design and lighting,” says Padula. “We feel that this type of event is key to raising awareness and strengthening knowledge about important topics related to the architecture and the design realm, which dramatically affect our daily lives, as both individuals and communities.”
iGuzzini’s latest product, Laser Blade XS, recently received the Interior Luminaire of the Year award at 2017 Lighting Design Awards.
“This important achievement demonstrates how the innovative impact of the Laser Blade XS – inspired by Lucio Fontana’s art of cuts – has been immediately perceived and appreciated,” says Padula.
“The Laser Blade XS is an icon of miniaturisation and precision, perfectly integrating with architecture to create unprecedented, expressive shapes with a new definition of the relationship between space, light, and design.”
For Padula, the main challenges that the industry now faces revolve around respect for specifications and ensuring that high quality standards are maintained throughout the entire project. For next year, he adds that he expects to see more projects related to the company’s mission – social innovation through lighting.
“Light makes it possible to create places that are safer, more convivial, and more comfortable,” he says.
“More technological revolution is coming, mainly from the optimisation and miniaturisation of components in order to create high-performing, functional design solutions.”