A group of four designers are gathered around the iconic fountain of Plaça de Sant Felip Neri in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, dressed all in black. In this historic location – the setting for recent blockbuster UNCHARTED – they discuss the future of celebrated global hospitality design practice Wells International as part of an annual leadership workshop.
Wells International is more than an acclaimed global hospitality design practice. As captured by the company’s motto – “We Design Stories” – it is a team of talented storytellers who spin rich narratives using context, history and social fabric of place. Through globe-spanning collaboration, the team crafts emotionally evocative hospitality spaces inspired by their research.
The company, led by founder and CEO Justin Wells, has a strategic borderless approach that embraces nomadic working, with a headquarters in Dubai, and team members located in Paris, London, Riyadh, Dubai, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Belgrade, Madrid, and beyond. Each year, the leadership team converges in an inspiring destination to explore what the future holds.
In 2023, the team gathered in Barcelona for an intensive two-day workshop and recreated scenes from blockbuster film Uncharted, which stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Wells International drew inspiration from the film’s thrilling plot that sees a dramatic adventure unfold across captivating locations around the world. This echoes the design company’s ambitious manifesto, that ‘Design Mirrors Theatre’.
Through this creative approach, Wells International develops a script for each project that explores the site context, sets the scene, introduces memorable actors and moments, and invites audience immersion in the experience.
The title of the film is also evocative of the Wells International mission for 2023: to sail into uncharted territory with emerging markets and exciting new projects – from a luxurious beach club and resort by the Red Sea, to iconic European hotels.
“The Americas is an exciting emerging market for Wells International, as is the Far East,” says Justin. “With recovery from the pandemic and the opening of borders, our borderless, nomadic approach is more relevant than ever before, and our clients are in love with our unique design process.”
As Wells International moves into this exciting uncharted territory and begins to discover additional markets, the team is also evolving. Lorna Meva Raza and Martin Farrow, who have been a part of Wells International for some time, have both been promoted to new roles – Lorna to Director, and Martin to Design Director.
Both Lorna and Martin will remain intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, bringing spectacular projects to life. Importantly, they will also have the chance to embrace the bigger picture, setting the scene for the future of Wells International as it makes an impact on the global design stage.
Martin Farrow – Design Director, London
With over 35 years of industry experience, Martin has worked across some of the world’s most iconic luxury hospitality projects – including the 7-star Burj Al Arab, Four Seasons Hong Kong, and Mandarin Oriental Prague. In his previous role as Lead Designer, he led large design teams across the globe.
“My new role is very exciting,” says Martin. “Not only will I be a representative of Wells International within the Hotel industry here in Europe but I’ll be working with and alongside a handpicked and diverse team of talented people who I will help mentor to develop the best design and creative solutions.”
Lorna Meva Raza – Director, Paris
Throughout her career, Lorna has built an impressive portfolio with global hospitality giants Wilson Associates, Atelier Tristan Auer, and Xavier Cartron. She joined Wells International as a Project Manager and is essential to the creative success of the company’s work.
“By being part of the leadership team, I get to be part of the strategic conversations that steer the vision and the direction of the company,” says Lorna. “My new role also involves business development, as we are looking to open ourselves to new markets.”