From high school Manzù to interior designer for Expo Dubai

Dolphin Cortese

He opened his own studio in Downtown. The experience first at Deotto Architetti in Bergamo and then internationally with Woods Bagot and Emaar.

“Already in my first report, when she was only 6 years old, the teacher wrote:” Delfina has a penchant for artistic subjects. And when I was 11, I won my first drawing competition ». Delfina Cortese, 42, originally from Bergamo, explains how it was clear to her already as a child what she would become when she grew up. “Let’s say my path was already well defined from a very young age, never doubting what I would do.” In fact, after graduating from Giacomo and Pio Manzù Artistic High School in 1997, Delfina graduated with a master’s degree from the Faculty of Architecture at Milano Polytechnic (2004) and subsequently attended an annual post-graduate specialization course in Design for the Public Space, at the Department of Design, also at Milano Polytechnic. “This experience led me to New York, my dream, for an internship at the UOA studio in the summer of 2005. And from there, the desire to work abroad was born in me.”

The flight to Abu

However, Dhabi returned to Italy and ended the year of specialization, after some experience studying in Milan, Delfina started working for the Deotto Architetti studio in Bergamo in 2006. “In the summer of 2008, the Deotto studio sent me to Abu Dhabi for the Yas Marina Hotel project, which has hosted Formula 1 in the Emirates since November 2009. It was a surreal experience: temperatures reaching 50 degrees, in the middle of Ramadan, very fast rhythms. Dubai was an outdoor construction site, still empty, a city that developed along a highway and it was hard to perceive it. I did not understand what it was going to turn into and I did not like it. I remember one evening, at a restaurant on the thirty-third floor of the Downtown Address Hotel, in the heart of what is now the luxurious Downtown, opposite the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world with 163 floors (at that time halfway through its construction) , they explained to me what Downtown would be, but it did not convince me. At the end of 2008, the financial crash also reached Dubai, so in December we returned to Bergamo ».

The first experiences

So in December 2009, Delfina ends her collaboration with the Deotto studio and decides to go to Dubai, «where there was still a lot to build. You land in Dubai on January 26, 2010 with small savings, poor English and a tourist visa that expires in 60 days. I immediately started doing interviews, including one day with a small Australian studio. When I got home depressed, it was hard to understand the different accents. But as soon as I crossed the threshold to the house, I got a phone call.

It was a much larger Australian studio, Woods Bagot, a global architectural firm with offices around the world, to which the small Australian studio immediately sent my resume, which read: “this is what you’re looking for, it would be wasted by us “. I will always have to thank the Australians for their intellectual honesty. ‘

Success with Woods

Bagot Woods Bagot was looking for new talent for the design of the Kempiski Hotel in Muscat. ‘The next day, after a long interview, they hired me right away. It was February 28, 2010. From there, an intense experience began that never stopped. Woods Bagot was and is one of the largest companies in Dubai with first-class financial customers: it was a great challenge to have contact with them. It was a great school, not without difficulty. From those years I remember a lot of work and a little fun. I remember a day when I worked 16 hours: breakfast, lunch and dinner at the desk. But I have had excellent colleagues who have been my mentors, with whom I am still in touch, even though they are on the other side of the world. “

Interior with Emaar

“After 2 years, they trusted me independently of my first leading world finance client, for whom I designed the interior of Dubai’s headquarters in the luxurious DIFC financial center – says Cortese -. And after an experience, in 2013, for the luxury boutique developer Albarari, where I transformed a 1350 sqm residential villa into a SPA, Heart & Soul, a not easy project for which I was the only responsible woman, began to mature. in me the desire to work on my own ». In November 2014, however, Delfina had the great opportunity to be selected for the interior design department in Emaar (state developer, one of the largest construction companies in the world, undisputed luxury developer in Dubai, builder and owner of the tallest skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa) as Senior Design Manager . “It’s a company I admire that I’ve been very attached to. In less than 15 years she’s managed to create a world – class luxury destination from literally nothing. Amazing. Its president, for whom I had the honor of designing one of his private villas of over 2000 square meters in 2015 is a great visionary.Working for Emaar is a very important experience in Dubai which has given me great visibility and taken me to another level.And for me , from Bergamo, it is a great pride ‘.

Studied in Downtown

On November 17, 2019, after 5 years, Delfina’s work experience ended in Emaar. “And on November 27 of that year, I founded my Interni Delfina design studio in Downtown, a boutique studio that focuses on high-level projects, not just in Dubai. Even after so many years and so much experience, it was like starting And Emaar is now one of my clients for whom I designed the 2020 Club VIP lounges at the Dubai Expo of over 6,000 square meters. ”But Dubai for Delfina is not just work.” Over the years, I have found important friends, a high-quality lifestyle, but above all an open mind to the world, which is some of the most beautiful that Dubai has to offer. “Even though Italy is lacking.” Italy is a country that is a strong part of me and that I represent in Dubai. Not being physically close to my family, staying friends, I miss and feel sorry for it. And I do not miss being able to walk in Overbyen. I try to go back to Italy at least a couple of times a year, but due to the pandemic I stayed more than a year and a half without returning ». What about the future? “He’s here in Dubai for now. I’m available to travel and also work on projects in Italy, which I do at the moment. But always from my studio in the center of my beloved Downtown Dubai.”

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