Founded 55 years ago in Toronto Canada, Design International strives to realise buildings and open places that can become social condensers that inspire the interaction of people and their communities. Here, RLI sits down with CEO Davide Padoa, London Director Hearan Kim and Milan Director Roberto Sibiano to discuss how the company has operated through the pandemic and what the future holds.

Truly innovative design is the bedrock of Design International and has become the brand’s identity. After quickly gaining traction in the architectural arena, the company has continued to grow across the globe and now has its headquarters in London, with additional offices in Milan, Shanghai and Dubai.

This year has been a challenge for every company, and CEO Davide Padoa felt that the pandemic accelerated the need for change, strengthening people’s need to meet and socialise. “Despite the incredibly challenging year, we have managed to maintain our 100-strong and talented team, and we pushed hard by taking on board several new design competitions and we have won the highest number of bids ever in a single year, including the most recent, Zhuhai Outlet Mall near Macau with developer CR Land.”

Maximo Shopping Centre in Rome – featuring the largest collection of restaurants in an Italian mall, Ada Mall in Belgrade – awarded as the most successful lifestyle destination in Serbia, Da Vinci Village in Rome Fiumicino – the largest retail park in southern Europe, and Forsan Central Mall in Abu Dhabi are among our latest completed projects of 2019-2020.


In the coming year they will be launching Silicon Central in Dubai, Sharjah Central in Sharjah, Urban Village in Riyadh, LuLu Mall Trivandrum and LuLu Mall Lucknow in India, Livat Changsha and Livat Shanghai in China, as well as Maximall Pompeii as well as the Gran Reno Shopping Centre. In total, the new gross lettable area will exceed one million square metres and more than 1,000 new physical stores will open within the upcoming developments.

Away from the retail and leisure sectors, a major project Design International completed work on Ferrari’s brand-new Centro Stile in the heart of their factory compound in Maranello. The Ferrari Centro Stile hosts under one roof the designers of Ferrari, the chassis model laboratories, the tailor-made area and the atelier private viewing rooms.

“For us, this experience and project was a turning point. Learning from the specific attention to detail of Ferrari, we realised that our half-a-century experience of dealing with brand values and brand interpretation has put us in an excellent position when it comes to delivering our creativity to enhance the brand qualities of our clients,” Padoa explains.

In the past year, the company has for the first time entered some Eastern European territories such as Slovenia and Ukraine, and they have also re-started projects in countries where they were active a few years ago, like Germany and Sweden. Today the most promising territories for the business are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, China, Mexico and USA.


At its heart, the company strongly believes in passion, research and collaboration. The passion the team has is inspired by curiosity and by the ultimate pleasure of creating places where people can meet, work, live and interact. Embedded throughout the firm is a strong sense of research, and through its DI Foundation they have set up a scholarship program that keeps an open dialogue with several universities around the world that excel in environmental design and circular economy principles. Padoa feels that collaboration is key and that knowledge should be shared with other architects, engineers and designers who think alike.

Roberto Sibiano, Director of the Milan office explains: “The company is driven by passion and by creating breathing spaces that bring and bond people. We strongly believe in creating iconic designs where circular economy principles and sustainability are fully embraced. We are agile, fast and experienced and I feel these are some of the reasons we have enjoyed success over the years.”

After a challenging 2020, the company still continues to look to the future with the appointment of Hearan Kim as Director of their London location to manage and oversee all the design managers of its London headquarters.

“In Korea we say, ‘you can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore’. I believe both in courage to accomplish new goals and in team spirit. I am sure that our talented architects will continue to inspire each other in building a better world and it is my prime remit to instigate the strongest spirit Design International is so well known for.”

Looking forward to 2021, Padoa believes it will be a year to rethink and rebuild with environmentally sustainable principles that strike a nature between man and nature. “Our main objective will be reinventing shopping and entertainment centres and blending them with new hospitality, work and learning functions and services,” Padoa concludes.