Benchmark 2015, Kuwait
Happy Monday! Hope you all had a great weekend.
I spent my weekend in Kuwait. It is the first time I visit. I mainly came to attend the benchmark annual design conference organised by YOURAOK yesterday. This year's title was "Design Entrepreneur Forum." The conference took place in the Gulf University of Science and Technology, GUST.
The setup was nice and it had a gallery area for the charity auction that took a place at the end of the event. There were many lovely art and furniture pieces featuring twenty six talented artists.
I really enjoyed the speeches and all the inspirational pointers the speakers gave. There were 12 speakers covering different areas in design and entrepreneurship to motivate designers and to give them a push in the right direction. Below I am going to mention each speaker, his/her main points and share few snaps of his/her presentation and work.
The day was started with a talk by Andreas Derrer, the co founder of OOS architecture firm. The firm aims to create an open operating system within customised spatial environments. The firm's design process start from analysing the sight, thinking of the budget, user and clients. The balance of budget, quality and time is very important to the firm. Derrer spoke about some of the completed project where he shared the importance of answering certain questions about the design and the product before even starting, such as why is the design needed and how would it be different.
The following talk was by Sirdab Lab a company created by Hidar AlMosawi and Mona AlMukhaizeem. A creatively dynamic and innovative community of startups. They met in the previous Benchmark event last year. I was very impressed with what they achieved. I saw similar startup supporting communities in the UK, but this was my first seeing it in the Gulf. The Sirdab lab provides great support for starting artists and designers. My favourite thing in the talk was their advice: "Don't compare your inside to someone's outside." They also emphasised on the importance of starting and getting out there even if the designer doesn't think she's ready because if it's perfect then it's too late.
The third talk was by Razan Alazzouni, a gorgeous Saudi fashion designer. We went to the same school, Dhahran Ahliyya Schools! Her presence in the conference was one of the reasons that encouraged me to attend. She has such a fabulous startup story and she is very talented. A snip it here won't be fair that's why stay tuned to a full feature with her soon.
The talks kept getting better and the fourth was by Abdullah AlShalabi the founder of fishfishme, where you can find book fishing charters around the world. His story was great and full of inspiration because he kept persevering. He shared the many obstacles that came his way. How he dealt with them and how he kept trying was good to hear. He gave great tips on how to utilise different web platforms. His journey is really worth following.
The fifth talk was given by Cyril Zammit, the art director of Design Days Dubai, the biggest design event in the region, where designers and artists are featured. The event exhibits a huge variety of work and many public workshops to benefit the community. Zammit's talk was really good. He started with defining design then he spoke about being an art/design collector starting from the why to the how. He also emphasised the importance of quality over quantity.
The sixth talk was by Dr. Rami Daher the cofounder of TURATH an architecture firm in Jordan. He was AMAZING and super inspiring. His way of thinking and the way he approached architecture in the Middle East was unique and interesting. His designs are mostly public spaces that engages urbanism. The ideas he presented such as "How can academia inform architectural practice" and the "Study of heritage modernity in the Arab world" were really food for thought. In the beginning he discussed the changing structure of the Jordanian house and how it broke to from the square structure. He presented two of his designs. The first one was the Historic Old Salt Development Project and the Historic House of Abu Jaber. It was important to respect what was there with adding a contemporary meaning to the place. Below are three photos of the project from start to finish.
The second project that Dr.Daher spoke about was the Hanger. He proposed renovating it and keeping it as a landmark in the city, but he faced few issues trying to convince the committees that this is a great idea. At the end, he got everyone on board and transformed to a public space. The design itself has a lot of symbolism from the type of materials used to unifying the two parts of Jordan. He also discussed that architecture without understanding the city in the culture is naive.
The talks that followed were also informative and useful. The one by Roland Daher was about the right way to start a business and get mentoring and funding. His Q&A session was the longest where everyone wanted to know the best ways to kick off a business. What resonated with me from his talk was the need to find a mentor that leads you to the right path and a partner that compliments your skills. The following talk was by Zein Ghanma, a public speaking consultant. Her talk received a lot of interests. The main tips she gave were about balancing the voice and the breath and about leaving a lasting impression on the audience. A good tip that Ms.Ghanma gave was that if someone is not brave enough to start speaking in front of an audience she could start from asking questions at lectures she attends. Afterwards, Bashar AlSalem from Kayan Architecture Firm gave a quick talk about the challenges that the firm faced from the community and the economy, but he spoke about persistence and following one's ambition.
The tenth talk was another favourite of mine. It was given by Shirin Ehya. A beautiful and very talented interior designer. She left her successful life in NYC to take a risk back in her home town and start her own fabulous line of furniture. Her story is amazing and she will have a full feature on the blog soon.
The last two talks were by Maitha AlSuwaidi and Haya Awad were also really good and eyeopening.
Overall, it was a fantastic event and I really enjoyed networking and meeting likeminded people.