Matteo Gentili. When design is versatile.

Neoclassicism and flexibility. Tradition and evolution. Made in Italy and international scenarios. But above all, the client. We met Matteo Gentili, of the Dubai-based architecture and design firm Casa&Casa, and traveled with him through the Middle East, through encounters and projects, collaborations and visions that express his idea of multipurpose and tailor-made design.

With a degree in Urban and Landscape Design from La Sapienza University of Rome, a Master’s degree in Interior Design from IED Rome, and a Master’s degree in Landscape from Maimi University, in 2009 Matteo Gentili moved to Cairo where for two years he undertook several design projects, including multiple private residences and commercial spaces in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as the development of various types of hotel suites for the Faraana Reef Resort, in Sharm el Sheikh. In 2011 he returned to Rome to bring his newfound know-how to the family construction business, improving its processes and efficiency. But the Italian break will be short-lived: in 2013, Matteo Gentili returns abroad, and this time he chooses Dubai.

Matteo, what made you choose Egypt as a place to live in your early professional years, and Dubai as your current base?

Having taken an international course in college, since my youth I have been surrounded by friends and classmates of different nationalities, and in fact both of these destinations have in common a former Egyptian classmate of mine with whom I spent most of my university time, a friend I wanted to follow even once I finished my Roman studies. With him we opened a design studio based in Cairo: an experience that lasted two years, during which I not only had the opportunity to test myself with my profession in terms of retail, public and residential spaces, but also to get to know in depth countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Libya, the UAE; in short, I learned the Arabic language and greatly expanded my network internationally. After Cairo, I returned to Rome to follow up on the family business, but nine years ago a contact from my old Egyptian partner, who had meanwhile moved to Dubai, was enough for me to take off again with the goal of carrying out a large private project for an Indian client. From there, it was a short step and I moved on to become, in 2019, a partner in the firm Casa&Casa, established in 2010, for which I still work today. In general, I have the awareness that in these places, especially the Middle East, the value of the work of Italian architects and designers is much more appreciated than at home. Living and working in a part of the world where the world is practically present at 360 degrees allows you to open your mind and put yourself out there: and that is how I have been able to express and manifest my talent. Unfortunately, I have the conviction that in Italy I would never have been able to realize some of the projects that saw the light of day in Dubai instead.

How has your idea of interior design changed, if at all, over the years, and more importantly, how much have your international experiences influenced your style?

They have influenced in the sense that in Dubai, for example, you can work with clients from all over the world, not just the Arab world, my clients also come from India, Russia, Europe, which has allowed me to focus more and more on creative and design-related flexibility, making my work extremely versatile and custom. Personally, I call myself a multi-purpose architect, as I believe that the role of a designer is to interpret the desires and needs of each client, trying to best fit them to the project and the spaces. There is no style that I prefer, although as a Roman I feel rather attached to the neoclassical style: an element that returns often in my work. In any case, in this geographical area of the world, the fact of not having a personal approach is an added value, because every client wants to express his or her own taste and style, often determined or partly conditioned by the culture to which one belongs, so it is the ability to be able to interpret and know how to immerse oneself in a different atmosphere each time that makes the difference. And in this I think CIAM and I are similar.

About CIAM: From the Pompi bakery chain in Rome to Pavlova, for which he signed the café located inside the Dubai Mall, CIAM technology and design are present. What do you appreciate in a refrigeration design company?

The realization of the spaces of the Pompi chain was an opportunity to meet CIAM for the first time, which I arrived at through the account manager of Lazio, Paolo Scopetti: a real discovery, which met and exceeded my expectations. A deep admiration for its product and technology, which I got to know firsthand, was born immediately: in fact, for me it is fundamental to see up close and touch what I propose, and proposing CIAM to the Pompi chain first, and to Pavlova later, was something that brought value to both projects. What I appreciated and what I still appreciate is quite obvious: I believe, in fact, that in terms of product quality, technology, after-sales and the ability to perfectly sew projects on the customer’s needs, CIAM has no equal, and this is demonstrated by the fact that it is now working on important international scenarios, achieving excellent results. A company evolved in skills and technological innovations, which has been able to maintain the same reliability, creativity and passion of a small family business, which makes it particularly close to every customer.

Speaking of evolutions, what are the focuses, tools, and languages that in your view express the direction – or directions – of international design, between now and the next 20 years?

Contemporary, understood in its most extreme sense as minimalism, is constantly evolving, so it is difficult to predict the directions it will take between now and the near future. What is understood as modern today may be extinct in five years. Instead, in my opinion, what will never change and will remain the basis on which to go about proposing new solutions and new approaches are certain elements proper to classical Italian architecture. The eternal lines, as I call them: from the Colosseum to the Pantheon, there are details, decorations, architectural elements that never die and that can be reinterpreted in a contemporary and modern key, also thanks to the contribution of new materials resulting from current and future technological innovations.