Celebrating Legendary Italian Design

Legacy Pininfarina ventures in the Middle East

By Shereen Shabnam

As an architecture and a motoring enthusiast, my love for cars and buildings came together recently with Pininfarina at its Middle Eastern debut. The legendary Italian design house established by Battista Pinin Farina in 1930, became the most acclaimed car designer of his time but in 1986, the third generation of the Pininfarina family created Pininfarina Extra to extend the design capabilities of the company outside of the automotive sector.

Over the past 30 years, Pininfarina Extra has developed more than 600 projects under the direction of its President and Chief Executive Officer, Paolo Pininfarina (now Chairman of the Pininfarina Group).

I met with Paolo Pininfarina at the Capital Club to talk about the brand’s arrival in the Middle East and the family’s commitment to explore dynamic new markets, as part of a strategy to build a long-term base in the region.

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Tell us about Pininfarina as a company and what prompted you to venture into the architecture and interior business?

Pininfarina has a long history and a strong heritage in design. Founded in 1930 by my grandfather ‘Pinin’, the company continued to expand under the leadership of my father, who started important collaborations, probably most notably with Ferrari in 1951, a relationship that gave life to some of the most desired cars in history.

I founded Pininfarina Extra to extend our design capabilities outside the automotive industry, as I believe our DNA can find expression in different fields, from yachts to furniture to luxury objects. Our venture into architecture was part of a natural progression for us, and from our projects to date; we are very pleased with the results and feedback from our clients.

What attracted Pininfarina to launch its architecture and interior business in the Middle Eastern market?

We believe the Middle Eastern market understands and appreciates our style made of elegance, luxury and outstanding shapes that give life to extraordinary buildings all around the world, from Miami to Singapore, from Sao Paulo to Istanbul.

What is your first project in Dubai?

The first Pininfarina large-scale project in Dubai is the interior design of the Innovation Center in the Sustainable City (awarded the first sustainable city in Mena), a modern application of social, economic and environmental sustainability developed by Diamond Developers.

Which markets will you be focused on within the Middle East?

We’ve explored various options, but certainly the U.A.E is the best location for our regional offices. While we’re aware of the vast construction market throughout the GCC, we are already familiar with Dubai thanks to some of our existing clients from the luxury consumer market, and believe it will be the most interesting place to start working in the region from a business development perspective.

How is Pininfarina going to differ from other regions?

As mentioned earlier, the GCC region is developing at an incredible pace, with countries such as KSA, Qatar and the UAE consistently pushing the limits of design and engineering. As a company that shares the philosophy of pushing the limits of design, we feel there is a great amount of potential in the region to work with developers who share our vision for creating extraordinary projects that will become synonymous with the regional skyline.

What is going to be your marketing strategy for the Middle East?

Pininfarina’s philosophy is based on a unique combination of strong character and deep understanding of the culture of our partners, much in the same way an atelier with a powerful identity is able to create tailor-made clothing.

Given the nature of our business, our clientele will always remain exclusive so we expect our business development to occur through a soft marketing strategy through word of mouth, and of course on the credibility of our back catalogue of work.

Tell us about your recruitment plans and will you have a design team locally or will you only have an operations and relationship building unit?

Our plan is to be present in the market with a representative office able to understand and satisfy the needs of our Middle Eastern partners. The projects, from a design point of view, will be coordinated from our Italian headquarters in collaboration with local architectural studios. In the future, as we did for our Miami-based subsidiary, we will probably build a team of architects and designers that will operate in tight collaboration with Cambiano, our headquarters just outside of Turin.

Which are the sectors that Pininfarina will be focused on for its architecture & interior business and why?

In terms of sectors we are open to understand the demand in greater detail. From our experience, we’ve created a wide variety of mixed-use, commercial, residential, and recreational developments. Our team is always open for a challenge, so we will be interested to consider any type of project.

How are you going to differentiate yourself from your competitors in this region and what is going to set a design by Pininfarina apart from the rest?

We believe our architectural language is unmistakable – based on more than 85 years of experience in creating timeless beauty, we have carved out a reputation that leaves a wake of some of the most desirable objects from the past hundred years. Leveraging on our automotive heritage, we give life to curved and sophisticated lines, conveying dynamism in our building designs.

Our main difference from the other international studios is we still operate as a boutique; every Client, every Project is different and we are obsessed about quality; business is a consequence.

This unique and tailored architectural approach combined with the prestige of our brand, makes our value proposition standing apart from the market and it represents a power tool to guarantee the success of our global partners too.

Did you face any challenges establishing a new business in the region?

We are not a mass market company so when it comes to our business development, we are already aware that we have a specific target audience when it comes to providing bespoke architecture. We are fortunate in the sense that we are a design company, and whose personnel are already established and working in Italy, so in that sense we believe our model will make any potential challenges easier to overcome. 

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