Setting Creative Benchmarks

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Davide Padoa

Chief Executive Officer – Design International

Shereen Shabnam

Davide graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Milan and finalized his architecture studies in California at the University of Pomona. After an immersive design experience in the USA and Italy, Davide moved to the U.K. and then to Indonesia, where he worked as a Design Director in one of the largest engineering and architecture practices.

During that period, he lectured architecture at the Trisakty University and established an international relationship between the Indonesian and Italian governments for large regeneration projects. He returned to London in 1998, joining Design International to expand and further develop the company’s European and Asian operations.

We speak to Davide about his considerable development experience and project leadership that ensures the production of remarkable architecture and commercially successful projects.

Where does your design inspiration come from and can you give us an example from a recent work done by Design International?

Inspiration is all around us. As an example from this region, I will touch on is our design for a new mall for Lulu Group in Silicon Oasis. The inspiration came from pebble stones I found when we first visited the mall site as the pebbles were grouped together in an interesting way. We evolved the designed from these pebbles into gigantic shapes but keeping space in between them so that they eventually became the walkable area in the mall. The stones had a round silhouette similar to river stones so nature is the key inspiration for fluid visitor flow with the sky light above the walkways.

Each pebble represents an area, so for example the entertainment pebble has the cinema, the gym, spa and all the leisure activities. This is the biggest pebble because this needs bigger volume for those activities. Then there is the family pebble, the F&B element and then of course the shopping pebble. There are five pebbles that shoppers can flow in between and each serves a different function.

What other projects have you designed in this region? 

For the Middle East, we are working on a few retail projects for Lulu Group International based in Dubai, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Abu Dhabi.

What motivated you towards architecture, was it always in you?

As a child, I wanted to study economics and commerce and eventually become a businessman one day. As I grew older, I developed a love for mathematics and physics. Then one day after school I came across a friend crying as her family would not let her study architecture. I did not know what architecture so I explored further, became interested, went to the faculty of architecture of Milan, enrolled and five years later became an architect. I love it but I deeply love cooking too, so my first job was as a chef in a kitchen in London. Then I found a job in Indonesia as an architect and my career started very much from there in the biggest engineering and architectural practice in the country.

Tell us about Design International and your growth?

We tend to have a bespoke tailor – made approach for projects with 125 architects in three offices in London, Milan and Shanghai and now we are opening in Dubai as part of our plans to grow to 200 staff. We hope to expand into North America as well.

Do you find more developers are looking for practical and more holistic community mall projects as people look for easy access and convenience?

The convenience factor is always a priority and community malls reflect a natural evolution of a city that is becoming a community and is a natural evolution of cities wanting real authenticity as part of the urban experience. As human beings we want to connect and share encounters with people around us so community projects allow that. Sharing experiences via twitter, facebook and whatsapp is still indirect with no actual contact whereas sharing a cup of coffee in the neighbourhood mall has more charm and is special in that moment.

Do you a think a city becomes more comfortable with itself as a result of the architecture in it. Do you feel like Dubai is comfortable with itself?

Yes, I see Dubai as a life of a person. Dubai started as a kid and it wanted toys. As it became a teenager it needed to find itself and learning to stand with confidence. The beauty about Dubai is that despite strengthening its identity as an adult, it will always remain young in spirit and continue creating different facets of its personality.

Finally, where will your office be in Dubai?

We selected D3 as our office venue as it is a hub for creativity and and also for our regional work. The team looks forward to becoming part of the journey, contributing to the architectural landscape of the region.

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