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2017 WYDF Leader Bios

shashi caan

Founder & Spokesperson, GloW-DESIGN, Practitioner, Visiting Professor


Shashi Caan is a distinguished thought leader for architectural design internationally. As a practitioner, design futurist, educator and author, her dedication to furthering human

betterment through and by design is reflected in her 25-year design career.


She was formerly senior Designer with Gensler and then Design Director and Associate Partner with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, in New York. In 2002, she started and remains a founding partner of her innovatively structured firm, THE COLLECTIVE.


She is the 2004 U.S. Designer of the Year, was granted the 2012 Golden Seat Architectural Master Award of China, and in 2013, she was appointed the JDP Design Ambassador to Japan. With her service on numerous industry and professional Board of Directors, she was one of 3, two-term Presidents of the distinguished International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), a service which furthered the impact of Interior Architecture/Design across the world. For this work, she was recognized and honored by IFI as a Fellow of the IFI (FoIFI).


As recognition of her international impact, she has been bestowed honorary fellowships in the UK, Australia and the US and conferred an honorary doctorate from the NY School of Interior Design. She is the author of the seminal book, Rethinking Design and Interiors: Human Beings in the Built Environment. This important book has also been translated into Chinese.

steven clarke

Associate Professor, Practitioner


Steven Clarke is an associate professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), the Director of the UNLV Downtown Design Center (DDC), and a licensed landscape architect in British Columbia, Canada. He has a passion for 

design education and likes bringing people together through public engagement to build community and resolution. Through his position at the UNLV and his practice, Regeneration::LAB, Steven has focused his work towards the development of regenerative and sustainable communities through collaborative research, design, and action. He is a graduate of the Environmental Design and Landscape Architecture programs at the University of Manitoba and holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture. 

guy geier

Practitioner - Managing Partner


An architect and interior designer with 38 years of experience in the design and management of corporate and institutional projects, Guy Geier is the Managing Partner of FXFOWLE Architects as well as having responsibility for the  

firm’s Corporate and Interior Design practice. A LEED Accredited Professional, Guy focuses on developing designs that reflect a client’s mission while creating solutions that address environmental concerns and the health and well-being of the users while delivering economic benefit to the client. 


Guy has completed buildings and interiors for a wide range of clients including SAP, the National Audubon Society, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Disney, Mitsui Fudosan, Asia Society, Columbia University and the Javits Convention Center.


Guy is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association.  He is on the Board and Executive Committee of the NY Chapter of the American Institute Architects as well as being President-Elect.  He also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Virginia School of Architecture where he received both a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree in Architecture.  

glenn gissler

Practitioner - Principal


Glenn Gissler is the President and owner of Glenn Gissler Design, Inc., an award-winning Manhattan-based design firm established in 1987. His work is stylistically diverse and regularly seen in major American design publications,

including Interior Design, Town & Country, ELLE Décor, House & Garden, Hamptons Cottages & Garden, New York Times Sunday Magazine and Bathrooms by Chris Madden. Gissler has been included in numerous lists of top designers including House Beautiful, New York Magazine, Elements of Living, and New York Home.

A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), earning dual degrees in Fine Arts and Architecture, Glenn has far-reaching interests in 20th century art, fashion, literature, sociology, architectural and social history, and a general interest in objects as cultural artifacts. He is an active Member of the Board of Governors at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design. Prior to opening his own firm, Glenn produced an extensive and varied portfolio of work during his time with interior designer Juan Montoya and as an interior designer for acclaimed architect, Rafael Vinoly.

World-renowned fashion designer, Michael Kors, was Glenn’s first client. They have continued to collaborate over the last 27 years, with Glenn just recently completing Kors’ expansive Greenwich Village penthouse terrace.

Glenn received The New York Metro Chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) 2014 Inspired Designer Award and the 2014 NYC&G award for Interior Design.

benjamin huntington

Practitioner - Principal


Benjamin Huntington has practiced in New York for the last 27 years working on a wide variety of projects, ranging from houses in the Hamptons, expansive ski chateaus in Utah, brownstones, Manhattan apartments and several country

houses. He personally designs and oversees all projects from beginning to end.

Benjamin was educated and apprenticed in England to high standards of traditional architectural design with an extensive knowledge of cabinetry details in all styles of architecture. After working at London based firm, C. Smallwood Architects, he headed up the New York office for their American clients. In 1991, Benjamin started a New York-based design firm specializing in white glove residential projects for a select clientele.

Concurrent with running a successful design practice, he has trained for over 20 years in the art of Feng Shui with some of the great masters in the West in a variety of schools, including Black Hat, Nine Star Ki and Pyramid School, recently becoming a Feng Shui Master. He teaches and lectures in Feng Shui and design across the continent.

Benjamin has been active in the New York design community holding positions within ASID (American Society of Interior Design) NY Metro Chapter, as well as, serving as President of IDLNY Interior Designer for Legislation in NY. He currently sits on the ASID National Government and Public Affairs committee and is Co-chair of the CIDQ Ambassador Committee.

Benjamin holds a BA in Design, is NY State certified, a Feng Shui Master and a professional member of ASID.

dina lamanna

Practitioner - Principal


As a Principal, and Senior Project Interior Designer, Dina is responsible for conceptual design, space planning, finish and furniture selection, design and detail development, site inspections and construction administration for HOK’s

hospitality projects. She has more than 12 years of expertise on a vast range of hospitality projects, including high-end hotels, restaurants, and lounges. Dina’s passion for design helps HOK to develop successful solutions for each client, creating spaces that are both beautiful and functional.


Dina is LEED certified, a member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality (NEWH). In 2014, she won Boutique Design Magazine’s Boutique 18 Award and, in 2015, was published in Interior Design’s “Best of Hospitality Architecture & Design, V2”.


In addition to her work at HOK, Dina teaches in the master’s program at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID), with a focus in hospitality studio courses. Dina is a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design.


Project Experience:

The Address Hotel Manama, Bahrain; PIF Tower Tenant Fit-Out Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Park Central Hotel New York, New York; West House Hotel New York, New York; Hilton, El San Juan Hotel & Casino Isla Verda, Carolina, Puerto Rico; Walt Disney Family Museum San Francisco, California; 81st Academy Awards, Oscars Set Design Hollywood, California; Westin Times Square New York, New York; W Union Square New York, New York; The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo, Egypt

annie lee

Practitioner - Principal


Annie Lee is a Principal of Interior Design at Environetics, one of New York’s most respected firms of architecture and commercial interior design. She has built strong relationships with clients like HarperCollins Publishing, Phillips

Van Heusen, The Durst Organization, and Doctors Without Borders.

Her previous experience as a fashion buyer for prominent trend setters like Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue influenced her design sense and granted her an uncommon sensitivity to detail. As an interior designer, Annie’s designs inspire her clients and provide solutions that show how each client can be related to in their own space and how they can work within it. It is the attention to detail that allows her to craft personalized interiors that are as individual as her clients.  As a LEED AP ID+C, Annie has designed sustainable solutions for many of Environetics clients.

Noteworthy accolades of the last few years include:

  • IIDANY Honoree of the Year 2017

  • Andavi furniture system launch with Tuohy, Winner of Best of Competition Gold at NeoCon 2017

  • CoreNet best project of the year award with HarperCollins

  • NYCxDesign/Interior Design Magazine award at MoMA for the Year Up Project

ian pirie

Emeritus Professor, Education Advisor


Ian Pirie is Emeritus Professor of Design at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy UK. A full-time educator since 1980, his work has been in designing and leading the development of innovative 

programmes of study in and across Art, Design, Architecture, Business, Computing and Engineering. He is internationally known as an examiner, quality assurance reviewer and education advisor with work being undertaken in East & Southern Asia and Oceania in addition to UK and EU institutions.

His research has explored the use of emerging digital technologies in both Design practice and in supporting specific pedagogical approaches in Education. During the past decade and more he has led and worked on numerous online developments in support of student learning and specifically in the areas of assessment and feedback at the Robert Gordon University in eLearning; 'Insight Out Learning' for the teaching of entrepreneurship with Glasgow School of Art; chairing the development team of the national portal for the Crafts for the Scottish Arts Council; the innovative developments in assessment and feedback at Edinburgh College of Art where he was Assistant Principal for Learning and Teaching and most recently the online suite of tools to support personal tutoring, academic guidance and support at the University of Edinburgh. He is currently leading the development of the ‘SLICCs’ self-designed learning experiences that will enable students at the University of Edinburgh to design aspects of their own learning for credit and is also working with the Royal Conservatoire Scotland to develop a new approach to assessment and feedback in the performing arts.

eric schuldenfrei PhD

Professor of Digital Media, Designer


With a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Master’s of Philosophy as well as a PhD from the University of Cambridge, Eric Schuldenfrei is a designer who focuses on the evolving relationship between architecture,

art, and technology. Along with Marisa Yiu he founded ESKYIU, a multi-disciplinary architecture studio which actively integrates art, culture, and community together. They have been awarded the ‘Design Vanguard’ by Architectural Record, the ‘Architectural League Prize’, Perspective ‘40 under 40’ award and the ‘Design for Asia Award’.

Schuldenfrei served as the Curator of Exhibition, Education, Film, and Media for the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale and has presented at DLD Moscow on the Topic of Future Cities, at the inaugural International Design Allian congress, the V&A museum the Northern World Mandate in Helsinki, Harvard University AsiaGSD series, the University of Cambridge, and the Royal College of Art in London. His most recent book The Films of Charles and Ray Eames: A Universal Sense of Expectation was published in 2015, focusing on architecture, politics and the moving image.

chris speed PhD

Professor, App Designer, Journal Editor


Chris Speed is Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He has a BA in Alternative Practice (Brighton Polytechnic, 1992), a Masters in Design (Goldsmiths 1999), and a PhD from Plymouth University (‘A Social Dimension 

to Digital Architectural Practice’, 2007).

His research focuses upon the Network Society, Digital Art and Technology, and the Internet of Things. Chris has sustained a critical enquiry into how network technology can engage with the fields of art, design and social experience through a variety of international digital art exhibitions, funded research projects, books, journals and conferences. He has led the team that developed the platform and has developed a series of Apps to make the case that linear time is no longer a tenable part of the Internet of Things.

Currently Chris is working on funded projects engaged with the flow of food across cities, an internet of cars, turning printers into clocks and a persistent argument that chickens are actually robots. He is a co-organiser and compére for the Edinburgh events and co-editor of the journal Ubiquity.

jim speers

Associate Professor, Artist


Jim Speers is an artist and associate professor at the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. As an artist, he uses a variety of processes including printing, sculptural installation and moving image. Jim is interested

in the social geography of urban environments, and in particular, the narratives associated with the individual experiences of those living and working in these places.

In the period since 2012, Jim has often worked in China where he collaborates as part of a collective Xian Chang Bian (Field Recordings). This group draws together artists/ filmmakers from China and New Zealand. Their installation, Let the Water Flow, has been exhibited at Shanghai’s Rockbund Museum in 2016 and the film Xiao Pudong will be shown in conjunction with the Cosmopolis Biennale at the Centre Pompidou in Paris later this year.

michael thomson

Design Strategist


Trained in 3D design in Northern Ireland and Germany Michael Thomson set up Design Connect in London in 1995 to help businesses and organisations in the private and public sectors to evolve their visions and strategies for future 

growth through a process he calls ‘design-led strategy thinking for growth’.

A former President of the Bureau of European Design Associations, (BEDA) Michael initiated and led the lobbying process, which saw the incorporation of design by the European Commission in Europe’s Innovation strategy in 2012. Michael was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by Brighton University in 2014 for his services to design.

elana van der wath

Senior Lecturer/Programme Leader


Elana van der Wath holds a Master of Interior Architecture (Professional) degree from the University of Pretoria, completed as part of an exchange programme with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently the Programme Leader for

BA(Hons) and MA Design for Exhibition and Museums at the University of Lincoln (UK).  She also holds a PGCHE and teaches exhibition design in both the UK and Hong Kong.


Apart from her interest in craft as a mode of thinking, she is interested in how design disciplines influence one another and in the unique characteristics of design thinking. Current interests include the exploration of narrative in design and the potential of 'the exhibition' as spatial artifact.

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