Designopolis is the capital’s latest and biggest retail outlet. But at this new art and design hub, it’s more about art than money — a philosophy that shows in the numbers.
The new space has some of the lowest retail-space rents in the city; choosing vendors based on strict quality and service standards, and has been awarded Egypt’s first LEED certification, a sign of excellence in environmentally sustainable construction and design.
Heading Designopolis in its quest to become Cairo’s center for creativity is Nader Lahzy, managing director of Bonyan. Daily News Egypt sat down with Lahzy to discuss his plans for revolutionizing Cairo’s art and design scene.
Daily News Egypt: What does Designopolis offer Cairo that other retail outlets do not?
Nader Lahzy: People in Cairo looking to decorate their homes often encounter a lot of difficulty and frustration because they don’t know which contractors to use, are unsure of what interior design offerings are out there, or aren’t aware of the many options they actually have. Designopolis solves this problem by offering a one-stop-shop for home design; everything from flooring and paint to furniture, lighting and art is available, along with on-site contractors and interior designers. Designopolis is also committed to educating people about art and design — we want the experience of decorating a home to be more convenient for people, but we also want to introduce them to new ideas and options that they might want to consider.
What is going to make Designopolis successful?
People in Egypt are hungry for information about art and design. Yes, we provide retail outlets where people can come to shop and I have no doubt that these shops will be successful, but what I think will make Designopolis thrive in the long-term is our commitment to education and our plan for creating a community that will give people the information and exposure they are craving while also helping to foster an appreciation for art and design, and helping people access and appreciate the work of local artists, craftspeople and designers.
How do you hope Designopolis will contribute to Cairo’s art and design scene?
Designopolis is about much more than retail; it is the fulfillment of a carefully considered vision that we hope will help set new standards for art and design, environmental consciousness and service in Cairo. First and foremost, we see Designopolis as a project that can help support art and design in Egypt, offering support for up and coming artists, job opportunities for arts graduates, a venue for performers, and a place to exchange ideas and allow creativity to flourish. I like to think that we also set an example for others by our attention to the architecture, landscaping, construction, design and environmental impact of the Designopolis site itself: by creating this dynamic, pleasing and innovative site we are showing people how all these elements can come together to make something amazing.
Where do you hope to take Designopolis into the future?
Business-wise, we are focusing on maintaining the project’s high standards as we begin work on Phase II of the site and are thinking about opening other sites in Cairo and Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of ideas: an auction house, a design school, art exhibitions for youth. Mostly, however, we’re focused on fulfilling our mission for Designopolis by trying to attract the best new retailers, putting together a great lecture and workshop program, and reaching out to local students and youth to see how we can collaborate to make Designopolis the best it can be.