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Tue 1 May 2007 12:00 AM

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APID Conference

APID (The Association for Professional Interior Designers) hosted its first design conference last month to overwhelming support from the industry.

APID (The Association for Professional Interior Designers) hosted its first design conference last month to overwhelming support from the industry.

President and founding member of APID, Kenneth Laidler, opened the conference with a speech entitled ‘The Client and The Designer'. Laidler stressed the significance of the interpretation of the role a designer and a client has. He said: "Clients do not know what to expect from an interior designer anymore, particularly in Dubai due to different nationalities, backgrounds and training. The first step for interior designers to take is to explore their own role so that they can better serve the client."

Thomas Klippstein of the Emirates Palace Group spoke on behalf of the client, discussing the challenges he has experienced in the communication between the client and the designer. He said: "Designers need a clear brief from the client and must work hand in hand with operators to receive maximum results. Interior designers should also recognise that some clients do not want to be educated as not everyone is open to new ideas."

Education was a main topic of discussion throughout the day, both for the interior designer to keep abreast of evolving technology and for the client to be involved in the thought process behind the choice of materials and design. Farida Kamber, owner of Cinmar Design said: "Interior designers often create mistrust by not giving the client what they want. This can be solved through education. We must tell the client why we have chosen particular materials if that is not what they requested. We want to please the client but it is important to leave a sense of trust and education behind - not just the decoration." In his speech entitled ‘Design Standards', Mehdi Sabat agreed with Kamber, saying: "Technology has changed the way we work but how do we maintain a healthy dialogue? We can only accomplish this through continuous education and training."

Copyrighting and protecting designs was also an important issue raised. Copyright lawyer, Jason Majid and David Traynor of Brinton's Archive both emphasised the importance of interior designers being confident of their designs through the use of the correct documentation. Said Majid: "Interior designers must sign, date and make a note of the influences at the time of design in case an issue of copyright arises." The question of ownership was also discussed with suggestions being made to have license agreements written into contracts.

Hazem El Khatib's speech entitled ‘Design Design: Regulating the Interior Design Profession' listed seven reason as to why the interior design industry can benefit from regulation. His points included: "to qualify interior practitioners and to promote reasonable fees towards professional services." Professional services he claimed, were the most difficult things to sell.

An afternoon panel session with Barry Hannaford, director of DPA Lighting; Markus Stebich, HBA, and Omid Rouhani from Zayed University focused on the need for specialised disciplines within the interior design profession. Stebich reminded delegates it was only a century ago when interior design was seen as a discipline separate from architecture, and that designers can specialise in terms of the type of projects (residential, retail, hospitality, office) as well as within specific disciplines: lighting, F&B, sustainability.

A discussion ensued as to whether too much specialisation was confusing for the client, when ideally he would want just one contact, and the more ‘experts' involved, the more complex the project management becomes. It was generally agreed that as long as a lead consultant is appointed at the outset of the project, which should usually be the architect, or senior interior designer, then they are the point of contact for all parties involved, not the client. This lead consultant should be akin to a film director, someone aware of how each component comes together and keeps an eye on the creative process until it reaches completion. Stebich pronounced that it is a dangerous thing when designers announce that they can do everything, as no-one can excel in all areas of design and that enlisting the help of someone who knows more than you do in a particular field, shows no weakness, just a strong knowledge of your own capabilities. John Alexander Smith agreed, citing the importance of teamwork.

The keynote speaker, Khuan Chew, interior designer of the iconic Burj Al Arab spoke about her tumultuous journey she undertook which led to her setting up KCA and achieving global recognition with such infamous projects. She urged young designers to stay alert for opportunities and "grasp milestone projects with both hands." When asked about trends and the future of interior design she stated: "The world is getting smaller, if you had said to me 20 years ago that a Chinese woman would have designed one of the most talked about buildings in the Middle East, I wouldn't have believed you, but this is proof that anything is possible and that you should never give up."

In his presentation Mario Seneviratne embraced the topic of sustainability in interior design and how to implement the eco-friendly solution. He talked designers through the steps they need to start taking to produce conscience-free designs, and the various considerations they need to implement if designing for a LEED certification, which includes ensuring at least 10% of internal content in a building is recycled, with 5% of the total building materials being rapidly renewable. Mike Leney from Interface FLOR added to the debate on sustainable options by talking about biomimicry and carbon off-setting programs that eco-aware companies are instigating, ensuring they are heading towards a carbon neutral future. The Chairman of the day, John Alexander Smith from the American University agreed, stating that sustainability does add value to projects and while this region has some catching up to do, there is an increasing desire to be part of the global move towards eco-friendly options.

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