The Ital­ian Job

With a new pres­ence in Dubai ser­vic­ing the re­gion and its first large-sale in­te­rior de­sign project un­der­way in the Emi­rate, Pin­in­fa­rina is ex­tend­ing its legacy of Ital­ian de­sign across the GCC.


You may know the leg­endary de­sign house, Pin­in­fa­rina, for hav­ing penned such clas­sics as the Lan­cia Aure­lia, Alfa Romeo Spi­der, Rolls Royce Ca­mar­gue and Fer­rari Tes­tarossa but given that al­most every au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­turer has now stopped out­sourc­ing the all-im­por­tant de­sign process in order to bring it in-house, the Turin-based com­pany had no choice but to rein­vent its busi­ness model. With its lack of prof­itabil­ity in ten of the past 11 years and ever-mount­ing debt, job cuts were a ne­ces­sity and, in the end, just 600 peo­ple were re­tained (down about 90 per cent from its 5,000 a decade ago) be­fore a floun­der­ing di­vi­sion that built cars for other man­u­fac­tur­ers was shut­tered three years ago. Luck­ily, things are now look­ing up. In 2015, just over three quar­ters of the Pin­in­fa­rina stock was ac­quired by Mahin­dra, the mas­sive In­dian con­glom­er­ate, and Pin­in­fa­rina’s CEO, Sil­vio An­gori ex­plained the ben­e­fits, “Mahin­dra has a cus­tomer port­fo­lio of more than 800 clients. We have just 160. Even if 10 per cent of their clients be­come ours, we would have 80 new clients. That is a 50 per cent in­crease and the ex­tent of the op­por­tu­nity.” Of course, over the course of its 87-year his­tory Pin­in­fa­rina has proven it stands for more than just cars, ex­ert­ing its in­flu­ence on ev­ery­thing from ar­chi­tec­ture to vend­ing ma­chines and tooth­brushes. Now, its sights are set on ex­pand­ing to the Mid­dle East, with a new of­fice in Dubai and the staunch sup­port of the Ital­ian Cham­ber of Com­merce, which has elected the chair­man of the group, Paolo Pin­in­fa­rina, to its board of di­rec­tors in the UAE. “We ex­plored var­i­ous op­tions, but the United Arab Emi­rates is the best lo­ca­tion from which to ser­vice our re­gional Be­spoke­clients,” said Paolo Pin­in­fa­rina, when we met him at the launch event for the com­pany’s new of­fice at Cap­i­tal Club in Dubai. “We are well aware of the vast con­struc­tion in­dus­try and planned projects through­out the Ara­bian Gulf and are al­ready fa­mil­iar with Dubai thanks to some of our ex­ist­ing clients from the lux­ury con­sumer mar­ket. We believe it will be the most in­ter­est­ing place to start work­ing in the re­gion from a busi­ness de­vel­op­ment per­spec­tive.” The firm was orig­i­nally founded as Car­rozze­ria Pinin Fa­rina in 1930 by Paolo’s grand­fa­ther, Bat­tista ‘Pinin’ Fa­rina, but the com­pany ven­tured be­yond the au­to­mo­bile when it cre­ated an off­shoot called Pin­in­fa­rina Ex­tra in 1986. Paolo has over­seen over 600 projects since then. This March marked Pin­in­fa­rina’s first large-scale project in the Mid­dle East – the in­te­rior de­sign for the In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in The Sus­tain­able City, the first op­er­a­tional net zero en­ergy city in Dubai de­vel­oped by Di­a­mond De­vel­op­ers. But the com­pany’s new foothold seems to point to a broader game plan. “I’ve been to Is­tan­bul, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, but most of the time I go to Dubai,” pro­fessed the 58-year-old Ital­ian. “Be­sides be­ing a hub for the Mid­dle East, I believe Dubai is a place where our in­no­va­tive and emo­tional pro­pos­als are par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ated, both in in­te­rior de­sign and build­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. Of course, we take the lo­cal cul­ture into con­sid­er­a­tion but what makes the dif­fer­ence is the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to in­no­va­tion that we ex­pe­ri­ence in the Emi­rate. There is a great po­ten­tial.” Pin­in­fa­rina’s global foot­print al­ready in­cludes award-win­ning projects like the traf­fic con­trol tower for the new Is­tan­bul air­port, head­quar­ters for a Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate and an­other in Brazil but the re­gion’s dy­namic busi­ness cli­mate is par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing. “The Mid­dle East is a re­gion that

“We ex­plored var­i­ous op­tions, but the United Arab Emi­rates is the best lo­ca­tion from which to ser­vice our re­gional clients,”

truly rep­re­sents what sig­nif­i­cant de­sign achieve­ments can be re­alised in a short space of time given am­bi­tion, vi­sion, pas­sion and tech­ni­cal skill,” said Pin­in­fa­rina. “We are look­ing for­ward to mak­ing a last­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the re­gion’s ar­chi­tec­ture and will be an­nounc­ing sig­nif­i­cant new projects in the months ahead.”

Build­ing the Fu­ture

A key fo­cus for Pin­in­fa­rina’s work in the re­gion will be in the field of ar­chi­tec­ture and, specif­i­cally, “bring­ing move­ment and dy­namism to build­ings”. The com­pany is known for its in­no­va­tive and el­e­gant style which, in ar­chi­tec­ture, trans­lates to strik­ing struc­tures in­spired by the cur­va­ture and fast lines of the fam­ily’s au­to­mo­tive legacy. Re­cent ac­co­lades in­clude the 2016 if De­sign Award for the res­i­den­tial tower Cyrela by Pin­in­fa­rina in São Paolo, the 2015 Amer­i­can Ar­chi­tec­ture Award and 2017 Ger­man De­sign Award for Vi­tra in Bal­n­eario Cam­boriù and the 2016 In­ter­na­tional Ar­chi­tec­ture Award for the afore­men­tioned air traf­fic con­trol tower in Is­tan­bul new air­port. “As a brand, Pin­in­fa­rina has fo­cused its busi­ness on cre­at­ing cus­tomised de­signs for a highly dis­cern­ing au­di­ence and this is some­thing that has our Mid­dle East con­sumers look for,” said Pin­in­fa­rina who took on the role of Chair­man and CEO of Pin­in­fa­rina Ex­tra in 1987 and whose projects have spanned ev­ery­thing from ar­chi­tec­ture to de­signs for yachts and pri­vate jets and even fur­ni­ture and sport­ing goods. The com­pany has of­ten worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion with top in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies such as Bovet, Chivas Re­gal, Coca-cola, Ju­ven­tus, Lavazza, Mo­torola, Sam­sung and Unilever. “The Gulf is de­vel­op­ing at an in­cred­i­ble pace, with coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and the UAE con­sis­tently push­ing the lim­its of de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing,” he said. “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 re­gion’s sky­line.” From a de­sign point of view, the projects will be co­or­di­nated from the Ital­ian head­quar­ters in col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural stu­dios. “In the fu­ture, as we did for our Mi­amibased sub­sidiary, we plan to build a team of ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers that will op­er­ate in tight col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cam­biano, our head­quar­ters just out­side of Turin in Italy,” said Pin­in­fa­rina. With a wide va­ri­ety of mixed-use, com­mer­cial, res­i­den­tial and recre­ational de­vel­op­ments to its name, the com­pany is open to all pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing of course the ex­pand­ing sec­tors of hos­pi­tal­ity and public in­fras­truc­ture, but also pri­vate res­i­dences.

Fu­elling the Fam­ily Legacy

Pin­in­fa­rina’s first car – the 1947 Cisi­talia 202 – was the first and is the only car to be on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (MOMA) in New York since 1961. And though its long-stand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fer­rari has now all but ended, Paolo Pin­in­fa­rina shows an un­bounded de­ter­mi­na­tion to push the fam­ily’s cre­ative legacy for­ward. “The se­cret of liv­ing a happy life is to think pos­i­tive, as much as pos­si­ble,” he re­flects. “I am al­ways cu­ri­ous about new ex­pe­ri­ences, part­ner­ships and ad­ven­tures and try not to be over­stressed by re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. And it’s im­por­tant to smile and joke about things, to be ironic.” “I re­mem­ber when my grand­fa­ther saw a crowd of peo­ple tak­ing pic­tures of his mas­ter­piece, the Cisi­talia 202 at MOMA, he said to his friend be­side him: ‘You see, we do things for the peo­ple’.”

Pre­vi­ous: The Higold head­quar­ters, in the Shunde District of Foshan, is Pin­in­fa­rina’s first project in China. Left: The In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in Dubai’s Sus­tain­able City.

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