Featured Speakers

Minsuk Cho - Founder, Mass Studies

Architect Minsuk Cho founded the Seoul-based firm Mass Studies in 2003. He has been committed to the discourse of architecture through socio-cultural and urban research and mostly built works, which have been recognized globally, with representative works including the Pixel House, Missing Matrix: Boutique Monaco, Bundle Matrix: S-Trenue, Ann Demeulemeester Shop, Korea Pavilion: 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and Daum Space.1, Osulloc: Tea Stone/Innisfree, Southcape: Clubhouse, and Dome-ino. Active beyond his practice, he has co-curated the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale, and was the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, which was awarded the Gold Lion for Best National Participation. In late 2014, PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, held their first ever architecture exhibition, highlighting his works in a solo exhibition titled "Before/After: Mass Studies Does Architecture." Cho is an active lecturer and speaker at symposiums worldwide.

Cristiano Luchetti - Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, Art & Design, American University of Sharjah

A registered Architect with more than 15 years of experience in leading the design of a variety of large-scale projects in the residential, commercial and hospitality sectors across China, India, the Middle East and South East Asia, Cristiano Luchetti has been an Assistant Professor at the American University of Sharjah since 2012. Though he currently teaches architectural design, urban design and drawing, Luchetti holds a Master of Architecture degree from Pennsylvania State University and often contributes to industry dialogue and exchange. Outside of the classroom, Luchetti often writes about the architecture and urban development of the Middle East as an architectural critic for international publications. His research refers to the relationship between architecture and contemporary urban contexts, globalized cities, new sustainable strategies of development and re-adaptation as well as vernacular and traditional architecture.

Anna Cornaro - Associate Professor of Architecture, American University in Dubai | Founder, COdESIGN

Dr. Anna Cornaro joined AUD in 2014 as Assistant Professor of Architecture. She is a practicing architect and principal of COdESIGN Associates, an architectural office based in Rome. Specialised in Exhibit and Urban Design at Sapienza University of Rome, she was a Free Researcher at Tokyo University, and earned her Ph.D. at Sapienza University of Rome in Theory of Design (thesis awarded by Milan Polytechnic). Cornaro is a member of AISTUGIA (Italian Association for Japanese Studies). After obtaining her Laurea, Cornaro combined the academic with the professional. She was a professor at Sapienza University of Rome, a promoter and tutor of international workshops (Rome-Tokyo), a speaker in international conferences (Genoa, Rome, Milan, and Tokyo), and a full-time jury member at Pantheon Institute in Rome (Study Abroad Programs in Rome for Architecture and Liberal Arts). She has published papers on urban space, exhibit design, spaces for mental disease, and Japanese architecture and written essays and articles for several international magazines (domus, OFX, and OFARCH). She was granted three scientific research scholarships (three-year scholarship sponsored by the Sapienza University of Rome, two-year scholarship sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education, and a six-month scholarship sponsored by the Italian National Institute for Foreign Trade). Her main field of interest as a scholar and professional is perception of space related to materials and construction. Cornaro won both Italian as well as international (China, Vietnam) design competitions, where she was often the team leader. Her practice as COdESIGN Principal is focused on renewal and refurbishment of ancient buildings, housing, architecture of interior, sustainable conversion of existing buildings, public spaces. All COdESIGN projects are published in Italian and international magazines and books. Compasses, an Italian architectural magazine, distributed in the Middle East published an extensive report about COdESIGN interiors. Most of COdESIGN’s projects have received academic prizes.

Lulie Fisher - Design Director & Founder, Lulie Fisher Design Studio

Lulie Fisher is an Architect and Interior Designer with more than 25 years’ experience. She joined Foster + Partners’ studio in London in 1991 where she worked as an Architect on many prestigious and award winning projects including the LSE Library, the Robert Gordon University, The Bexley Business Academy and Canary Wharf Underground Station, London. In 2003 she relocated to Italy and set up her own studio restoring historic properties and remodelling the interiors. From her Italian studio she also continued to work for Foster + Partners in the capacity of Interior Designer on the Yacht Club de Monaco, the Vista Palace Hotel, Monaco, the MGM Lifestyle Hotel and the Mr Chow Restaurant, Las Vegas. In 2008 Fisher joined Aedas Interiors as Design Director for the Middle East and built up a team working across the interiors spectrum in the fields of hospitality, residential, lifestyle + leisure and healthcare. During this time she worked with some of the world’s leading brands, operators, developers and individuals including Kempinski, Accor, Carlson Rezidor, Langham, Mubadala, Cleveland Clinic, Aldar, Gemstone, Omniyat and the Abu Dhabi Royal Family. In 2016, Fisher launched her own Studio, Lulie Fisher Design Studio, with other talented and like-minded designers specialising in interior design. Recent projects include the new Dubai English Speaking College sixth form hub, the re-purposing of the Manarat Al Saadiyat galleries into an art studio, cinema and events pavilion, the Novotel Resort on the Palm Jumeirah and One the Palm Luxury Residential Development.

Maja Kozel - Founder | Spatial Designer, Maja Kozel Design

Maja Kozel is the passionate and quirky Principal Designer at Maja Kozel Designs. A UAE-based spatial design studio. Kazel, who is of Dutch origins, has a degree in spatial design from the prestigious Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam the Netherlands. Kozel worked in the Netherlands after graduating and then moved to Hong Kong. As an architectural designer she worked in a boutique firm, WDA Design for three years on commercial, residential, retail and transportation projects. In 2008, Dubai has been Kozel’s home where she has worked at P&T Architects, Gemaco Interiors and Outcast Interiors. In 2014 Kozel did what everyone else thought was daring (even slightly crazy) and courageous; she started on her own as a Spatial Designer in Dubai and was one of the first who was licensed with the Dubai Design District. She followed in the footsteps of her father, who also owned his own practice in the Netherlands and who was admired for his work on historical buildings. Kozel has in her spatial design portfolio a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces, which includes interior design, furniture design, product design and exhibition design. Through hard work and dedication Maja made a name for herself and has some impressive projects such as; the HQ office design of Booking.com Dubai, The HQ office design of the Heart of Sharjah, the HQ office design of Shurooq Sharjah Investment and Development Authorities and one of her favourites a music studio in Dubai which was her first project. To Kozel, design is truly about the experience of a space. The quality of light, the acoustics and the first thoughts you have as you enter the space are all very important part of design decisions. Her design philosophy is to create sensitive designs which are practical, socially responsible and sustainable and artistic expressions in their own aspect. Where possible Kozel aims to recycle and repurpose materials to create sustainable designs. In 2016, she won two awards for the cabinet design for Surge for Water, most sustainable award and highly commended award. Apart from projects, Kozel enjoys participating and giving back to the community. She loves reviewing student work and has visited universities such as the American University of Sharjah and Ajman University, and has volunteered at the Student Design Challenge two years in a row. Recently, she has been invited to be part of the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) of the Ajman University of Science & Technology, which is a great honour for her. She has also been invited to be part of the judging panel for the CID Awards in 2016. Kozel has also been part of the installation #EMO_DCI during the Dubai Design Week in 2016 that was commissioned by the Netherlands as being part of the DCI.

Ahmed Bukhash - Chief Architect & Founder, ARCHIDENTITY

Ahmed Bukhash is an Emirati national from Dubai. He first received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston in 2002. Following the completion of his studies, he then received the prestigious Monbukagakusho (MEXT) scholarship from the Japanese Government in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Higher Education to continue his Architectural Master Studies in Japan at the Kyoto Institute of Technology which he completed in 2006. During his masters Bukhash published a thesis based on the methodology of Japanese architects in embodying the regional symbolism of Japan within their architecture works and how the same can be adapted to the Arab Gulf States. Bukhash also worked as an intern with the Osaka Branch of Nikken Sekkei Ltd.; the leading architecture firm in Japan. Following his graduation Bukhash returned to the UAE and was employed by Dubai Properties Group from 2007 until 2014 as the Director of Urban Planning and Design. During his work career; Bukhash identified the need for developments to reflect the identity of their own culture and embody the spirit of place through modern abstractions and reinterpretations of traditional archetypes. This instigated him to establish his own architectural design practice in 2009 named ARCHIDENTITY. The main purpose behind the firm's establishment was to define a unique architectural identity suited to the present age while is simultaneously in line with our traditions and customs. Bukhash was awarded the Sheikh Rashid Award for Academic Excellence in 2010 and remains heavily engaged in the field of Architectural Education as a Council Board Member in the UAE Society of Engineers and a Member of the Dubai Advisory Committee for the Architectural Program Development at the American University of Dubai as well as teaching as an Adjunct Professor in the American University of Dubai in the field of Professional Practice and Ethics. In 2014 Bukhash joined the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority as a Director of Urban Planning to review and regulate future iconic master plans belonging to major master developers within the city such as MERAAS and Dubai Holding.

Bassel Omara - Senior Design Architect, Dorsch Gruppe

Bassel Omara is a Senior Design Architect & BIM Manager leading the Concept Design Department at Dorsch Gruppe, Abu Dhabi. Omara has worked intensely for both the public and private sector on a variety of projects, including airports, military facilities, hotels, schools, stadiums, retail buildings, resorts, banks, office buildings, touristic villages, social & sporting clubs, residential buildings and theatres. Omara was nominated as ‘Young Architect of the Year’ in both 2015 and 2016, and his dedication as an Architect extends beyond his professional career, speaking at various industry events across the Middle East. Philosophically, Omara’s work encompasses a diverse selection of projects that reflect his vision of creativity, sustainability, and never limiting.

Patrick Bean - Design Director, LACASA Architects & Engineering Consultants

With a Master's in interior design from Manchester University and more than 22 years of hospitality design experience, Patrick Bean boasts an extensive and diverse portfolio. As the Director of Interior Design at Lacasa, Bean aims to achieve a balance of design, aesthetic and function while fully expressing his clients' vision. His experience spans diverse markets including MENA, Asia, and Europe, having worked on the Address Boulevard Hotel, Dubai, UAE; the Radisson in Liuzhou, China; and the Marriott in Minsk.

Matthew Utley - Associate Principal, Grimshaw

Matthew Utley is an Associate Principal at Grimshaw and has spent the past 16 years working across all scales of architecture and design, leading projects in the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His professional and personal explorations in design have focused on the role of the designer in the public realm and the methods by which design professionals can promote access to design for all segments of society. Utley holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design, as well as a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University in the City of New York.

Hani Asfour - Associate Dean, Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI)

Hani Asfour is the Associate Dean of Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI). Prior to joining DIDI, the MIT and Harvard-trained architect was an Adjunct Faculty member at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, teaching in the departments of Architecture and Foundation Studies. Asfour’s academic experience also includes teaching positions at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Northeastern University, American University of Beirut and American University of Sharjah. Asfour was the Founding President of the Beirut Creative Cluster, and is an advisor to Beirut Design Week. A frequent public speaker, he has previously presented Design Matters at TedX Beirut, and has served as keynote speaker and mentor for data4chan.ge, whereby visual storytellers come together with human rights organisations that have fascinating original datasets and powerful stories to tell. He is a Founding Partner of Polypod, an award-winning multidisciplinary collaborative design studio in Beirut, Lebanon, that offers integrated design services in strategy, architecture, interior design, branding, web design and development, graphics, and information design for local and international clients. As a practicing designer with more than 20 years of experience, Asfour combines a mix of design expertise with entrepreneurship skills and academic depth, allowing him to combine practical and theoretical approaches in his teaching methods at DIDI. Asfour holds a Master of Architecture with Distinction from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Science in Art and Design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Robert Willock - Editorial Director, ITP Media Group

Robert Willock leads the teams of journalists that produce some of the Middle East’s foremost trade publications, websites and events, including Construction Week, Hotelier and Caterer Middle East, Oil & Gas Middle East, Middle East Architect and Commercial Interior Design. An award-winning Editor and Publisher with more than 20 years’ experience, he has managed business magazines, online and face-to-face media in many sectors, including construction, hospitality, transport, sports, HR and retail. In 2013 Willock was awarded an MBA with distinction from the University of Leicester.

Tarek F. Ardakani - Director of Operations, Emkay Interiors

With more than 20 years of experience in the fields of interior design, interior architecture and interior fit-out, Tarek F. Ardakani has been involved in the design and execution of several hotels, healthcare units, F&B units, retail units, banks, offices, villas, and apartments. His skills range from developing design concepts and project management to business development and marketing. An architect by training, Ardakani is an International Associate Member of AIA and an active member of the APID. Currently the Director of Operations at Emkay Interiors, Ardakani is involved in the management of more than 100 people along with day-to-day activities both on and off project sites.

David Lessard - Director of Hospitality, Perkins+Will

David Lessard is Director of Hospitality at Perkins+Will Dubai. With more than a decade of experience in the design, management and execution of innovative hotel and lifestyle projects, Lessard has actively contributed to the realisation of several award-winning works with ongoing projects in Morocco, Oman and Seychelles.

David Daniels - Director of Architecture, SSH

David Daniels’ experience spans the commercial, hospitality, residential and retail sectors, and includes the design of large stadia and sporting facilities. With more than 15 years of experience with leading international practices in the UK and the Middle East, he has a proven record of creating, presenting and developing an international level of design work. In these projects, he has also played a key leadership and business development role with both local and international clients. Previously employed by internationally acclaimed studios Hopkins Architects and Glenn Howells Architects (GHA), Daniels was engaged in numerous projects including the London 2012 Olympics as well as the Dubai World Trade Centre and Meraas’ Engineers’ Office Headquarters. At SSH, he is working on various projects within the Dubai Creek Harbour development, the Al Marjan Island development and the Burj Square master development. As well as holding a Bachelor of Arts with Honours Degree in Architecture and a Post-graduate Diploma in Architecture, Daniels is a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Neil van der Veen - Principal, RMJM

Neil van der Veen is the Principal of the RMJM Dubai office, where he orchestrates the design process, while overseeing and mentoring the highly skilled, multicultural team of designers at RMJM. He joined RMJM in 2004 and has more than 12 years’ experience in the Middle East working on global projects of all scales. Van der Veen has a varied design portfolio, ranging from the design of residential or cultural masterplans to large scale, high-end mixed-use developments in the hospitality, commercial and residential segments. Van der Veen is a strong advocate for sustainable urban environments that make use of high density, pedestrian accessible, mixed-use developments. His experience includes designs for developments in more than 20 cities around the globe.

Elizabeth Valkovics - Head of Business | Project Director, Kristina Zanic Consultants

Elizabeth Valkovics is an award-winning Project Director with 16 years of experience. Her strength stems from working in a variety of positions within interior design firms in Bangkok, Baku and Dubai as well as having her own design studio in London. With a background in fine art, Valkovic’s designs begin with a traditional approach, hand sketching and gathering inspiration from various influences whether it is theatre, music, fashion, or art. Valkovic’s extensive and varied work includes numerous projects in the hospitality, residential, retail and commercial fields including hospitality brand guidelines for Meraas, Le BHV Citywalk, F&B and retail spaces for Galleries Lafayette, Jeddah Tower Residences, AMMROC, a 40,000m2, 5-Star military aviation headquarters in Al Ain, and an award-winning washroom refurb at Gatwick Airport. Her versatility can be seen in her roles in design, business relations and project management, and her desire to maintain a hands-on approach, working with clients and consultants to achieve final designs of an exceptionally high quality. Valkovic has earned a strong reputation for reliably delivering on all stages of her projects, whether it is at the concept phase, complex detailing, or on-site design supervision. Valkovics plays an important and cohesive role in the management team, leading, communicating and motivating. Her wide ranging skills have enabled her to contribute to other aspects of the company and broaden her responsibilities including resourcing, building and maintaining business relationships, overseeing projects making her an invaluable and well-rounded member of Kristina Zanic Consultants.

Victor Siriani - Managing Partner, Avid Intellectual Property

Victor Siriani is the Managing Partner at Avid Intellectual Property and has more than 15 years’ experience in intellectual property (IP). Siriani has been instrumental in raising awareness on the importance of IP in the Middle East and has been vocal on the steps that organisations should take in building a sound, long-term IP strategy. Siriani has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Windsor, Canada and a Masters in Law from the University of Liverpool, UK with a focus on IP and Technology. His master’s dissertation was on 3D printing, its consequence and long-term outlook on IP law.

Tariq Khayyat - Head of Region – Middle East, Zaha Hadid Architects

Tariq Khayyat is the Head of Region - Middle East at Zaha Hadid Architects. Joining the office in 2005, he has been involved in as well as lead a number of the office’s high profile projects in the Middle East and Asia. Khayyat’s role as Head of the Region involves overseeing all current projects within the region as well as fulfilling the role of Project Director for a number of ventures and responds to the solid growth in demand from new and existing clients across the region; providing even greater levels of assistance, coordination and communication with the firm’s increasing client base throughout the Middle East. Khayyat was awarded his Master of Architecture with honours from the Design Research Laboratory of the Architectural Association School, London in 2005. He is a frequent guest lecturer and jury member in the UK, UAE, Cyprus, and Jordan. Khayyat was the Project Architect for the competition winning design of the King Abdullah II Performing Arts Centre in Amman, Jordan. He was also the Project Architect during the early design stages for the Changsha Meishihu International Cultural Centre Project Museum building, and the competition winning design of Bee’ah HQ in Sharjah which is due for completion in 2018. Further projects include the Al-Haram Mosque expansion proposal in Mecca, the Lusail Hotel in Qatar, as well as the Dubai Financial Market in the UAE.