2019 Speakers

Steven Mifsud

Managing Director - Direct Access, UK

Profoundly deaf Steven Mifsud has worked within Universal Design and access for People of Determination for over twenty years. In 2004 he launched Direct Access growing it into the leading Universal Design and accessibility consultancy working on large scale iconic projects around the world. Millions of people daily use services or buildings he has advised on accessibility.

Steven also advised on the development of the new British Standard, BS 8300 on the design of buildings and their approaches for disabled people. Within that he was worked with Governments and landscape designers to create innovative and accessible designs for everyone to enjoy.

Shujat Mirza

Chapter President - VR/AR Association, UAE

Shujat Mirza is an ardent fan of AR and VR Tech and ever since his introduction to AR in 2010, he has been following, preaching and propagating new age technologies and its content very passionately in UAE. He has worked with reputed media and advertising firms like WPP, Times Internet, Network18, Radio City to name few. During his stint in India, he was appointed as the group head for WPP and later became the business head for ALIVE middle east, which is an AR platform. He has been at the helm of creating a very first AR campaign in the middle east for a FMCG major. From the time he has set foot in Dubai, which was in 2012, he has conversed about these platforms and associated with top media agencies, some of the multinational brands and with government entities.

Maja Gligic-Bosse

Head of Landscape - Azizi Developments, UAE

Maja has graduated from the University of Belgrade, Serbia and during that time has been involved in the design and construction of the first golf courses in the country.

Her passion for golf and more specifically towards using ecological approach in golf course design led her to her first work engagement outside the country, when she joined reputable Golf Architects ”Harradine Golf” in Dubai, UAE, in 2006.

After spending four fruitful years within the company, Maja took on a challenging role as a Project manager for a fit-out company in Baku, Azerbaijan. Being involved in different aspects of design broadens her views towards using landscape in creating desirable living spaces.

After spending a year in Denmark, she returned to the UAE in 2012, where she worked as Project Manager and Senior Landscape Architect for leading companies such as Dorsch Consulting in Abu Dhabi and Desert Group in Dubai.

Currently she holds the position as Head of Landscape within the Engineering Department at Azizi Developments, where she introduced an overall idea of developing and improving landscape design of the company’s real estate projects, which lead to establishing full team of landscape architects working towards the same goal. 

Filippo Sana

Managing Director-Global Hospitality - Drees & Sommer, UAE

Filippo Sona is one of the most recognized names in the global hospitality consultancy community having carried out work in more than 28 countries for the past 25 years. From UK to Europe, Middle East, Africa and USA he has carried out more than 735 hospitality projects ranging from market & financial feasibilities, valuations, operator selection, project management and strategic asset management. Currently is Managing Director-Global Hospitality at Drees and Sommer, a global firm specializing in consultancy, asset management and construction management. Filippo understanding of management agreements has been an invaluable skill to global law firms as an expert witness and advisor in commercial negotiations. Filippo is a regular speaker at international hotel investment conferences and writers for many international hospitality publications. Filippo is an associate member of RICS and holds an MBA from Oxford Brooks University and an Honours Degree in Hospitality Management from the University of West London.

Dr. Jennifer Camulli

Senior Consultant and Autism Specialist - Direct Access, UAE

Jennifer is a Senior Consultant and Autism specialist at Universal Design consultancy Direct Access. She has worked primarily with education clients in Macau, Singapore and Dubai providing training, workshops and presentations to Educational Therapists, schools/teachers, and parents on special education, early childhood education and inclusion practices. This includes extensive work on the impact of play on health factors. She has successfully published academic articles on Autism and ADHD.

Farah Mekkawi

Senior Landscape Architect - AECOM, UAE

Farah has 7 years industry experience gained over the Middle East region and formally educated in Landscape Architecture and Eco-Management.

Working throughout the Middle East with exposure to major roles that includes; senior landscape architect, design team manager, project manager, construction supervision and contracts manager.

Experience with in the listed roles has provided exposure to a diverse range of projects instilling a thorough competence in areas of the design & construction industry.

Worked with both the Consultant and Contracting sector in the full delivery of landscape projects.

Strengths in communication, leadership& stakeholder management has provided elevation into management roles; effectively leading teams and industry professionals across multiple projects simultaneously.

Benjamin Heydon

Technical Landscape Consultant - Abu Dhabi City Municipality

Benjamin Heydon is a Technical Landscape Consultant to the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City and has worked in the specialist field of landscape architecture for over 13-years. A graduate from the University of Canberra and currently completing a Masters with Heriot Watt University; his experience has been generated through extensive exposure to unique environments which has seen him work in sectors in Canada, Middle East, Australia and Africa. Past large projects include, Ceremonial Walk; Australian War Memorial, Atlantis Hotel; Palm Jumeriah, Yas Island Street Landscape and Racing Circuit and Sheikh Zayed Street (Salam Street).

His technical work includes developing Landscape Standards, Specifications and Technical guidelines in line with best practices. Through coordination with other government body stakeholders and driven by sustainable design he has been successful in introducing a focal shift for the use of native landscape planting within public realm projects.

Marlon van Maastricht

Senior Manager, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning & Design Departments - Khatib & Alami

Marlon van Maastricht is Khatib & Alami’s Senior Manager Landscape Architecture; Urban Planning & Design Departments. He spent 13 of his 17 years working experience in the Middle East, and 2019 is his 5th year in the UAE. With a Bachelor in Landscape Architecture and a soon to be completed Master in City Sciences, Marlon is as much a landscape architect as an urbanist, and it is exactly this interface where he seeks and finds his challenges and passion.”

Mark Sutton Vane

Director - London 2012 Learning Legacy Ambassador for Lighting

Mark Sutton Vane took an Honours degree in Architecture and then moved into lighting design. He first designed laser shows and was commissioned by Kate Bush, Jean Michel Jarre and commercial clients to design and produce laser light shows.

In 1988 Mark Sutton Vane moved into Architectural and open space lighting design. In 1995 Mark started Sutton Vane Associates. This independent lighting practice works in all fields of lighting design and consultancy.

Mark has designed the lighting for schemes all over the world, including the Parklands and Public Realm areas of the London 2012 Olympic Park, which is over 100 hectares, using energy efficient LED lighting and renewable energy sources. It was so successful that Mark was appointed the London 2012 Legacy Ambassador for lighting. Mark lit the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Centre in Kuwait, the National Museum of Oman, and is currently working on the lighting design for the Great Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Mark is also accomplished in creating lighting schemes for a variety of landscapes, ranging from tiny London terraces to huge country estates and parks as well as urban public spaces. Landscapes that Mark has lit include the public gardens of Muncaster Castle, several palaces in the Middle East and landscapes all over the UK. Many of the clients for the private projects expect confidentiality so cannot be named.

Public realm projects include Portsmouth, Hastings, Bexhill-on-Sea, the centres of Liverpool and Leicester and many other cities and areas. These have all been adopted by the relevant authorities and successfully implemented. The Liverpool strategy led to Sutton Vane Associates lighting over thirty buildings in the centre of the city.

Mark has worked on photovoltaic based lighting system for public spaces for which he was presented a Millennium Award. The practice has designed alternative energy lighting for English Nature and wind powered lighting. The practice provides advice on energy saving and all schemes are designed to be environmentally friendly.

Mark regularly lectures about lighting design and its importance. He supports lighting design education. The practice places emphasis on sustainable lighting, telling the story of the project through light and meeting the needs of the client and users.

Nadine Bitar

Managing Director - Placemaking, UAE and Middle East Communications Chair, International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA)

Nadine Bitar is a thought leader on place-led approach for future cities and founder of placemaking.me, a think tank and consultancy that contributed to liveable and prosperous communities and cities in U.A.E, East Africa and India. Mrs. Bitar is a former city planning advisor to multiple local authorities in the United Arab Emirates  and also lead the regional planning practise at Mouchel Consulting (Now WSP) and local planning team at Tatweer (Now Dubai Properties). Till present, she has been involved in the planning and development of more than 30 large scale districts and urban extensions and major regional plans in GCC. Mrs. Bitar is currently the Middle East Communications and professional partnerships Chair for IFLA_ a global organisation focused on landcsape profession. She has a management diploma focused on innovation  from Insead business school, completed Smart Cities program from Harvard Graduate school of Design program, has a Msc in Urban Design from the American University of Beirut and currently specialising in public policy for sustainable development at Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in Dubai.

Geoffrey Sanderson

Senior Associate - AECOM

Until recently Geoff was seconded from AECOM to Ashghal, Qatar as an advisor on public realm. He is now with AECOM Dubai as Specialist Landscape Architect and Horticulturist/Design Manager for  World Expo 2020 public realm.

Geoff has more than 40 years professional experience both  in Australia where he won many design awards and 23 years in the GCC region  involved with significant projects including Expo 2020, Al Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi; Al Ain Landscape Strategy; Sh Zayed Museum Abu Dhabi; Islamic Art Centre Park, Doha; several aspects of the Lusail project, Qatar; Airport City, Doha; Oman Cultural Complex, Muscat; KSA landscape strategy and Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, Public Realm Design Manual.

Geoff has a particular interest in horticulture, landscape management, public realm design philosophy and cultural landscapes. He has chaired many conferences and presented papers on his favorite topics at conferences in Australia, GCC, Istanbul, Japan, Holland and UK.

Hrvoje Cindric

Associate and Senior Master Planner - ARUP


Hrvoje is an experienced, confident, committed and passionate Urban Planner and Designer. He has a proven track record as a designer, planner and project manager and has lived in the UAE for past five years.

Hrvoje has extensive experience in projects across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and South America, working for public and private sector clients alike. He has worked on a wide range of projects from strategic frameworks to large greenfield master plans down to brownfield regeneration, urban design and place-making projects.

Hrvoje is fluent in Croatian, English and German.

Laila Alawneh Soila

Senior Architect & Master Planner - Arada, UAE

Laila is an award winning Architect and Urban Planner with 15 years of experience. She worked in Scandinavia, the Middle East and the Gulf for renowned firms specialising in Smart and Sustainable City Planning and Architectural Design. Her integrated design method aims to provide a holistic approach toward the design of cities and buildings. Laila obtained a Masters of Science in Architecture from Aalborg University in Denmark and an MA from University of the Arts London. Laila’s work was presented at UK construction week in Birmingham in 2016 and at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen.

Laila is passionate about sustainable urbanisation and continuously promotes lifting the quality of life for dwellers and commuters. She and her family continue to cycle/walk and use public transport to stand as an example of active sustainable living individuals.

Rayya Jawhar

Senior Sustainability Consultant - Burohappold

Rayya joined the Sustainability Team of Buro Happold Dubai in 2013. Prior to this she has worked on sustainable building research and design with various environmental organizations including the United Nations Environmental Department. Rayya's main area of expertise is resource management and providing strategic integrated resources guidance within the built environment:

informing building and masterplan design for resources reduction and developing walkable places that reduce the dependency on car and vehicle fuel. She has worked on a variety of Middle East and international projects. Rayya provided sustainable design guidance to project scaling from villas , buildings , communities development to master planning. Rayya is also a LEED AP and has led the delivery of LEED projects in Qatar and Dubai.

Eng Sami Abdul Qader Alhashmi

Divisional Director of Infrastructure Support - Abu Dhabi City Municipality

Robyn Moro Miller

President - International Play Association (IPA)

Robyn's has 25 years’ experience working with children and families across Education and government in Australia.  

With qualifications in education, and community management, she is a frequent guest speaker at conferences and seminars across Australia and internationally as well as a spokesperson on children's issues in the media.

A member of the International Play Association since attending her first IPA conference in Melbourne in 1993, Robyn was formally co-opted to the position of Vice President of the International Play Association in 2012 before taking on the role of President in 2017.

In 2012 Robyn was part of the international delegation to the United Nations in Geneva to progress the development of the UN General Comment on Article 31 “The child’s right to play”. In 2013, Robyn facilitated an International World Café on Article 31 at the official launch in Geneva of the General Comment. Most recently in 2016 she was in Geneva for the International Day of Discussion on children and the natural environment and worked on the IPA project “Under the same sky”.

Robyn remains passionately committed to social inclusion and the development of communities that nurture and support children and offer opportunities for them to engage with their local community.

Rob Lockhart

International Sales Director and Chief Compliance Officer - Dynamo Playgrounds

Rob Lockhart has more than 15 years’ experience with Dynamo Playgrounds in the commercial playground equipment industry. Often commenting that he is a ‘professional at play’, he has had extensive involvement in the design of innovative playground equipment and transformative playspaces, which both have incredible positive impacts on the communities with which he has been privileged to work.

While leading Dynamo’s extensive safety and product testing programs, Rob is also a long serving supporter of safe play across the industry. Contributing through positions on the ASTM and CSA working groups for playground safety regulations, both IPEMA’s Equipment Certification Committee & Board of Directors, and the NRPA Play Area Advisory Panel, Rob is at the heart of progress for safe and well-designed playspaces.

Rob is a passionate crusader about the many benefits of good play, and the life-long impact that better play experiences can have on the children and families of communities globally.

Eslam Nasr Albadawey

Head of Architecture - Landscape department - NEC Consulting, KSA

Eng. Khalid Meccai

Technical Support Manager - Alyaf Geocomposites

Khalid Meccai started his professional education with a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology. After a brief stint in textile industry he completed his Master’s degree in Technology in the year 1984 with a specialization in Geotextiles. Since then for the past 33 years he has been involved extensively in various facets of geotextile/geosynthetics usage.

In 1996 he joined ALYAF Industrial Company, Saudi Arabia, and went on to head its technical support department for over 20 years. During this period he has been extensively involved in the design and construction of geosynthetics based civil engineering solutions in applications like soil stabilization, drainage, marine structures, landfills, etc. He brings in extensive hands-on experience of the geotechnical environment in the GCC and the specific demands on the Geosynthetic based solutions to suit them. He has been involved in the design and selection of geosynthetics for some of the largest Geotechnical and environmental engineering projects in the GCC.

He has over ten technical papers to this credit including: “Geotextiles in Transportation Applications” paper presented at the Second Gulf Conference on Roads at Abu Dhabi, March 2004.

Jens Rethorn

Consultant - Play4All Consultancy

Born near Frankfurt – Germany, Jens Rethorn is a business professional with more than 10 years in the MENA region and 15 years in Education, Sports and Playgrounds. As Co-Founder of the Ithara Group, he has been involved in hundreds of playground projects and a similar number of STEM projects in the GCC. He is the main force behind Ithara Group’s Play4All campaign, trying to make an active Lifestyle available for all.

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