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The Forum at Downtown Design will host a series of compelling live interviews and discussions between leading regional and international architects, interior and product designers on each afternoon of the fair. Staged in an amphitheatre specially designed to promote interaction and engagement by ema, topics will range from changing industry dynamics, behaviours and opportunities to how architecture and design can truly embody authenticity and place, and from implementing sustainability in the real world with real clients to authentic placemaking and the future of Middle Eastern cities.

The Talks


The Programme


In conversation with: Micael Calatrava, CEO, Calatrava International LLC

In conversation with: Micael Calatrava, CEO, Calatrava International LLC

Micael Calatrava is CEO of Calatrava International, a multidisciplinary engineering firm based in Dubai. In this capacity, he oversees and is responsible for some of the world’s leading infrastructure and construction projects with combined estimated values over $5 billion. Micael will be discussing the flow of Calatrava’s work globally, with a particular focus on their creation of the UAE Pavilion and Qatar Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Speakers: Micheal Calatrava (CEOM Calatrava International LLC)

This talk is moderated by Talib Choudhry, Editor-In-Chief, Architectural Digest Middle East

8TH NOVEMBER - 16:00-17:00 (By invitation only)

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In conversation with: Sebastian Herkner, Founder, Studio Sebastian Herkner

In conversation with: Sebastian Herkner, Founder, Studio Sebastian Herkner

Recent winner of EDIDA’s Designer of the Year award and one of Europe's most in-demand industrial designers, Sebastian founded his own studio in 2006 and has designed items for leading manufacturers across the world. Sebastian will discuss his design process and inspirations; his interest in traditional craft techniques and materials, and how he interprets characteristics from various contexts of society and culture and implements them in new artifacts.

Speakers: Sebastian Herkner (Founder, Studio Sebastian Herkner)

This talk is moderated by Pratyush Sarup, Content Director, Architectural Digest Middle East

9TH NOVEMBER - 13:00-14:00 (By invitation only)

Architecture and design that embody authenticity and place

Architecture and design that embody authenticity and place

Increasing end-user demands for unique and enriching experiences underpinned by local, regional and contextual authenticity are well understood, but how do talented interior designers and architects distill the essence of a place in their work? What research, process and techniques do they employ to capture and convey this relevantly and responsibly? And where do they view the line between the embodiment of place, culture and surroundings, and pastiche?

Speakers: Jonathan Ashomore (Founder and Principal Architect, ANARCHITECT), Neydine Bak (Co-founder, VerhaalC), Robert Shakespeare (Group Design Director, Cracknell)

9TH NOVEMBER 14:00-15:00

Breathing fresh life into the Middle Eastern contemporary product design scene

Breathing fresh life into the Middle Eastern contemporary product design scene

One of Beirut’s most acclaimed designers and one of Egypt’s biggest art collectors come together to discuss their views on the ongoing evolution of contemporary art and design in the Middle East, what they see as its intrinsic qualities and strengths, how the creative scenes that they are part of have changed throughout their careers and what they’re doing to support, encourage and promote their future development.

Speakers: Gregory Gatserelia (Owner, Gatserelia Design), Rasheed Kamel (Owner, Le LAB)

9TH NOVEMBER - 15:00-16:00

Le French Art de Vivre: The next 50 years

Le French Art de Vivre: The next 50 years

The French art de vivre is founded on centuries of excellence in craftmansip and innovation, matching the ever-changing world it is integrating into. This discussion will explore the future of French creation, its vibrant international presence and - as the UAE embarks to its next 50 years - its key elements to export know-how and interpret the requirements of this highly discerning market.

Speakers: Adrien Gardere (Designer Museographer, Founder and CEO, Studio Gardère), Jean Paul Bath (CEO, Le French Design), Julia Capp (Managing Director, RDAI)

This talk is moderated by Cyril Zammit, Design Advisor and Consultant, Cyril Zammit Design Consultancy

9TH NOVEMBER - 16:00-17:00

Design by soundbites: The impacts and opportunities of working remotely in a collaborative field

Design by soundbites: The impacts and opportunities of working remotely in a collaborative field

The pandemic has changed the traditional office landscape and workflow with many designers now working remotely or within a hybrid working from home model. The shift to remote working presents new opportunities and Phillippe Fouché, of SAOTA, a South African-based architecture studio working across six continents will share his insights after the studio migrated over 300 staff to a fully functional working from home model in early 2020.

Speakers: Phillippe Fouché (Director, SAOTA)

9TH NOVEMBER - 17:00-18:00

Making an entrance: An interactive walkthrough of this dramatic installation with its creators

Making an entrance: An interactive walkthrough of this dramatic installation with its creators

Led by Giorgio Palermo and Elena Gregorutti and utilising a range of innovative materials and techniques, the team collaborated to create a dynamic, playful and multi-sensory grand entrance to this year’s fair. Join the key creators Niu, Fantini Mosaici and Artemide for a live walkthrough of the installation to experience its different facets and receive first hand insights on its inspirations

Speakers: Giorgio Palermo (Founder, NIU Studio), Elena Gregorutti (Partner, NIU Studio), Carlotta de Bevilacqua (President and CEO, Artemide), Lorenzo Lotesto (Managing Director, Fantini Mosaici)

9TH NOVEMBER 18:30-19:15

In conversation with: Massimo Iosa Ghini, Founder, Iosa Ghini Associati

In conversation with: Massimo Iosa Ghini, Founder, Iosa Ghini Associati

Massimo is a multi-award winning architect and ambassador of Italian design, maintaining a strong presence within the avant-garde since the 1980’s as founder of Bolidism and member of the Memphis group with Ettore Sottsass. He’ll explore the need for 'emotional sustainability’ in a more environmentally aware future, and how his 'sustainable but beautiful’ theory relates to the ‘Beauty connects people’ theme of the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2020.

Speakers: Massimo Iosa Ghini, Founder, Iosa Ghini Associati

10TH NOVEMBER - 13:00-14:00

Balancing sustainability with luxury: Do we need to take a radically different approach?

Balancing sustainability with luxury: Do we need to take a radically different approach?

Tall buildings, imported materials and luxury present architects and interior designers with special challenges in the drive to improve the sustainability credentials of their work. What real measures and techniques are proving effective in achieving new efficiencies in the region, and do we need a radical change in thinking and approach?

Speakers: Andy Shaw (Managing Partner, AMA and Chair, RIBA Gulf Chapter), Diane Thorsen (Design Director, Gensler) Michiel Raaphorst (Architect, Director, and Co-Founder, V8 Architects)

10TH NOVEMBER - 14:00-14:45

International market and aesthetic trends in high-end hospitality and residential design

International market and aesthetic trends in high-end hospitality and residential design

As the local residential market continues to demonstrate strong growth signals and welcomes increasing volumes of new international clients and luxury hotel projects increasingly come back on line, three leading designers with deep international experience in residential and hospitality design offer insights on their recent projects and how they see market needs and tastes evolving as we emerge from the pandemic.

Speakers: Christian Merieau (Founding Partner, MMAC Design Associates), Elliott Barnes (Founder, Ellott Barnes Interiors), Lee Nellis (Managing Director, XBD Collective)

10TH NOVEMBER - 14:45-15:30

Contemporary product design and the art of effective collaboration with manufacturers

Contemporary product design and the art of effective collaboration with manufacturers

Three leading designers with highly distinctive styles explain their favourite work, personal inspirations and approach to product design. How is their approach informed by other modes of design, how do they involve and synthesise collaborative inputs in their process, and how do they work with manufacturers effectively?

Speakers: Pallavi Dean (Founder and Creative Director, Roar), Rock Galpin (Founder and Design Director, Rock Galpin Studio), Sebastian Herkner (Founder, Studio Sebastian Herkner)

This talk is moderated by Esra Lemmens, Founder & Director, The Esra Lemmens Agency

10TH NOVEMBER - 15:30-16:15

Sustainable Enviorments

Sustainable Enviorments

This discussion will feature leading Spanish designers and architects exploring their approach to sustainable models at different scales within the design industry: from the city to the object. The conversation will explore overlapping areas of interest in the matter between experts in the field from Spain and the UAE.

Speakers: Juan Roldán (Associate Professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design, American University of Sharjah)

10TH NOVEMBER-17:00-18:00

The future of homes: How user needs, experiences, technology and design are transforming residential architecture and interiors

The future of homes: How user needs, experiences, technology and design are transforming residential architecture and interiors

The last two years have increased demands on our living spaces, forcing them to adapt to different use-cases, experiences, services and constraints. As we look to the future, how do the panel think that this period will inform immediate and long-term trends in residential design? What features, amenities and touchpoints will become integral features of our homes, and how will technological innovation, interior and experience design shape them?

Speakers: Laura Bielecki (Group Design Director, Ellington), Rayana Hossain (Founder and MD, ISHO, Rob McIntosh (Founder, McIntosh)

This talk is moderated by Pratyush Sarup, Content Director, Architectural Digest Middle East.

10TH NOVEMBER - 17:00-18:00

In conversation with: Elliott Barnes, Founder, Elliott Barnes Interiors

In conversation with: Elliott Barnes, Founder, Elliott Barnes Interiors

Elliott is an American architect and designer based in Paris whose style resides in his elegant handling of light and use of both unusual and noble materials which invest unique, exclusive spaces with an innovative approach to luxury. Highly-sought after for high-end design projects across the world, Elliott will provide insights on his latest work, influences and the lessons that he’s learnt during his remarkable career to date.

Speakers: Elliott Barnes (Founder, Elliott Barnes Interiors)

This talk is moderated by Esra Lemmens, Founder and Director, The Esra Lemmens Agency.

11TH NOVEMBER - 13:00-14:00 (By invitation only)

Placemaking and the future of urban development in the Middle East

Placemaking and the future of urban development in the Middle East

The role that public spaces play in supporting our fundamental need to connect socially and promote a sense of community has been made acutely apparent during the pandemic. As major urban centres across the Middle East continue to grow at speed, the panel will examine the different design strategies and philosophies that are currently being incorporated in architecture and urban planning to integrate, transform and future-proof its cities.

Speakers: Caroline Bos, (Co-Founder and Principal Urban Planner, UNStudio) Duncan Denley (Founder and MD, desert INK), George Arvanitis, Director of Masterplanning and Urbanism, RMJM)

11TH NOVEMBER- 14:00-15:00

In conversation with: Isabel Pintado, SVP Design and Innovation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

In conversation with: Isabel Pintado, SVP Design and Innovation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Having joined Four Seasons in early 2021, Isabel Pintado is responsible for evolving the brand’s design vision and aesthetic across its global portfolio, as well as collaborating cross-functionally throughout the organisation to enhance the guest experience and programming. In a candid conversation, Isabel will be discussing her inspirations, career path, what she has planned for this next chapter and how she views the future of hospitality design.

Speakers: Isabel Pintado, SVP Design and Innovation, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

this talk is moderated by Esra Lemmens, Founder and Director, The Esra Lemmens Agency

11TH NOVEMBER - 15:00-16:00PM

Flexible design and architecture: Creating fluid, responsive environments and temporary experiences

Flexible design and architecture: Creating fluid, responsive environments and temporary experiences

The majority of architecture and interior design projects intentionally create static environments for specific purposes. At a time when more being is asked of our spaces – in finding convincing solutions to hybrid work / home environments or maximising the profitability of F&B outlets throughout the day for example – what new opportunities, challenges and approaches do our panel see in the move towards more dynamic and adaptive design?

Speakers: Tim Etherington (Co-Founder, ema)

11TH NOVEMBER - 16:00-17:00

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