AHEAD Americas 2018

2018 Judging

AHEAD Americas is adjudicated by an independent panel of experts, comprising leading hospitality architects, designers, owners, operators, developers and industry commentators.

The judging process for AHEAD Americas has been carefully developed to ensure a rigorous, robust and balanced procedure is followed to select the final winners in each category.


The judges for AHEAD Americas are acknowledged industry leaders, who represent a wide spectrum of the disciplines involved in delivering new hotel projects across the region.

Larry Traxler - Chair

Senior Vice President, Global Design Services - Hilton Worldwide

Larry Traxler serves as Global Head of Design Services at Hilton Worldwide, overseeing the design of all of Hilton’s luxury, full and focused service hotel brands. Traxler and his global design team work closely with developers, architects, and designers to ensure that the unique style of each Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand is reflected across the properties within its global portfolio.

Traxler has amassed more than 20 years of international hospitality design experience working across luxury, boutique, full-service and focused-service hotel segments. Most recently he ran the Architecture & Design department for Hyatt Hotels North America & Caribbean, and prior to this served as the Design Director for Ian Schrager Hotels, Wilson & Associates, and Hirsch Bedner & Associates, focusing on hotel design and development operations.

His career began at the experimental architectural design office of Jordan Mozer & Associates, and Traxler holds a six-year professional Bachelor of Architecture degree with a minor Professional Practice award from the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning.

Andrew Fay

President - The Gettys Group

Co-Founder and President Andrew Fay offers a diverse background in design, development, branding, finance and hotel operations that has helped propel The Gettys Group to the 30-year success story it is today.

By leveraging Fay’s breadth of experience, the firm has established a worldwide reputation for instituting a pragmatic and creative approach to hotel design and development. Championing innovations such as The Gettys Group’s leading-edge Integrated Solutions FF&E procurement model, as well as the exclusive Fast Forward Symposium, a think-tank driving futurism and thought leadership in the hospitality industry, Fay has maintained The Gettys Group’s focus on innovation, collaboration and delivering enduring projects with measurable investment return.

An honours graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Fay is a sought-after industry leader who is frequently engaged to share his expertise and insights on hospitality industry trends and development.

​Matthew Goodrich

Founder - Goodrich

Matthew Goodrich is an award-winning interior designer and strategist known for projects that feature rich narrative content and foster interaction and human connection. In 2017, he began building a new design practice to create hospitality projects which fuse conscious, meaningful design with operational innovation.

Prior to founding his own studio, Matthew was Chief Creative Officer at AvroKO, where he led the design process for hospitality and retail projects, and provided creative leadership for the internal branding agency Brand Bureau. Before that, he was Senior Associate at Rockwell Group, where he developed a wide range of project types, including hospitality, exhibitions, and scenic design. Matthew’s projects have included designs for established hotel brands such as Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, brand creation for the new Arlo hotels, restaurants for clients including Garces Group and Boka Restaurant Group, food halls such as Gotham West Market, and innovative casual dining experiences for Dean and Deluca, Barnes & Noble, and Panera Bread.

Before working in design, Matthew worked in museums, galleries, and artists’ studios, helping them to fabricate works of art and assemble exhibitions. He draws on that experience in the work he does today, infusing art and artisan-made elements into the spaces he designs.

Ira Imerlishvili

Senior Director, Interior Design - Marriott International

Ira’s adventure with design started with creating set designs for theatres and opera houses. Theatrical story-telling through design is visible in his award-winning work and he believes it is critical to hotel delivering unique and immersive guest experiences.

As the Senior Director of Interior Design for Marriott’s luxury brands Ira is managing a difficult balance between interiors reflecting hotel’s unique story and the local context while staying true to global brand standards. He is responsible for design of The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, The Ritz-Carlton, Luxury Collection and JW Marriott across Americas.

Prior to joining Marriott’s global design team, Ira has held design and leadership roles with Hirsch Bedner Associates, Aedas and HOK. Most recently, he spent a few years in Hong Kong leading hospitality design teams on projects across Asia-Pacific. In addition to a number of hotels and restaurants, he has developed award-winning new store design concepts for Starbucks in Korea.

Throughout 20 years of his career Ira has been a design lead for some iconic properties: St. Regis Abu Dhabi, St. Regis Saadiyat Island, The Peninsula residencies Yangon, and St. Regis Belgrade.

Ira has graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, Georgia  and from Georgia State University with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, Interior Design.

Matoula Karagiannis

Vice President of Design - Sydell Group

Matoula Karagiannis currently serves as the Vice President of Design at Sydell Group, a developer and manager of a diverse portfolio of award winning hotel brands including The NoMad, The Line, and Freehand. Karagiannis holds over 20 years of experience in hospitality design and is currently focused on the creation of the Park MGM hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, a $550 million transformation of the former Monte Carlo Resort.

Prior to joining Sydell Group, she held design and leadership roles with Wyndham Worldwide, Wilson & Associates (Singapore), Champalimaud Design, and Hirsch Bedner Associates.

 Karagiannis brings sharp design direction and branding expertise to her work, having completed a number of high profile national and international hotel projects including the Hotel Bel-Air, Four Seasons in Chicago and Sydney, and Rooftop Suites at The Dorchester, London. Her degree in Industrial Design from Université de Montréal and studies abroad at the Ecole National Supérieure de Creation Industrielle in Paris have further inspired her unique design career path, which also includes stints in industrial and textile design as well.

Aliya Khan

Vice President of Design Strategies - Marriott International

Aliya Khan is Vice President of Design Strategies at Marriott International. Focusing on AC Hotels, Aloft, Element and Moxy projects, she drives the efforts to define the design strategy for these brands and positions each with a distinct personality. Prior to joining Marriott International, Khan worked in numerous roles with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. She holds degrees in both architecture and industrial design.

She was responsible for several award-winning projects, including the opening of the W Montreal, renovations at the W Mexico City, and the Le Meridien properties in French Polynesia. She also lead the renovation of the iconic St. Regis New York and oversaw the design partnership efforts between St. Regis Hotels and Bentley Motors.

Most recently, before joining Marriot, Khan took a break from the hotel industry to lead Design and Development for NeueHouse, and was responsible for the opening of their award‐winning Hollywood location.

​Margaret McMahon

Senior Vice President - Wimberly Interiors

Margaret McMahon leads and manages Wimberly, Alison, Tong & Goo’s (WATG) interior design practice, with her 30 years in the design industry producing an impressive portfolio of projects and an equally impressive list of clients. Under her leadership Wimberly Interiors has launched studios in New York, Miami, Dubai, Shanghai and Los Angeles.

Prior to joining WATG, McMahon was Managing Director of Wilson Associates’ New York office, and former President of the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality’s (NEWH) New York chapter. McMahon was recently promoted to WATG’s first female Senior Vice President, and then elected to the Board of Directors of the employee-owned firm.

Margaret’s natural talent lies in pinpointing details, analysing conceptual designs, and integrating reality with emotion.

​Anwar Mekhayech

Co-founder - DesignAgency

Anwar Mekhayech is co-founder of DesignAgency, a multi-disciplinary global design firm. He developed first-hand knowledge of the hospitality industry through his family business and later as a restaurateur.

Thriving on collaborations with clients and other designers, Mekhayech has helped to develop environments that reflect each unique brand he works with and from 2014-2016 acted as Global Creative Director for Generator Hostels, assisting the brand’s growth.

Anwar is also a partner at the Toronto-based Arthouse, a boutique photography agency and production house, where he has taken a behind-the-scenes role overseeing business development and strategy.

​Cristian Rubio

Principal - HBA Miami

Cristian Rubio is an architect, interior designer and Principal of Hirsch Bedner Associates, Miami. He obtained his degree at the High Technical School of Architecture in Madrid, and won his first competition at 25. Rubio co-founded his own studio in 2002, named Rubio+Pozuelo, and served as Principal for a decade until joining HBA.

Since the beginning of his career Rubio has carried out numerous hospitality, interior design, residential and educational projects, taking responsibility for all phases of the development, from the initial sketch to its completion.

Since joining HBA Rubio has worked in the firm’s Singapore and London offices, developing projects for clients including Four Seasons, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG Hotels. HBA has now tasked Rubio with spearheading growth in Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America, and with producing a unique and sensitive response to each project.

Markus Schreyer

Vice President, The Americas - Design Hotels

Markus Schreyer is part of the senior leadership team at Design Hotels, a handpicked collection of over 300 design-driven luxury hotels across the globe. As Vice President, The Americas, he is responsible for developing the collection’s hotel portfolio, the business support of all member hotels, media and other potential partners, as well as expanding and building brand awareness and reach in North and South America.

Schreyer holds over 15 years of experience in global hospitality, including seven with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, where he held several senior roles in Sales & Marketing. Before joining Design Hotels he was the Starwood’s Regional Director of Marketing, East & Central Europe, responsible for brand, digital, Loyalty and partnership marketing. He holds a Master of Business Administration and a PHD in Innovation Management, and is a regular contributor to industry and innovation publications.

Allan Shulman

Founder - Shulman + Associates

Allan T. Shulman is the Director of Graduate Programs in Architecture and associate professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture. An author, editor, lecturer and curator, he is also founder of the award-winning Miami-based architecture and design firm Shulman + Associates. His work has been featured in major architectural reviews and national publications.

Vince Stroop

Principal - Stonehill & Taylor​ Architects

Vince Stroop joined Stonehill & Taylor as Principal in 2014, bringing with him over 20 years of experience leading the design of prominent public and private spaces including hotels, libraries, luxury residences, wineries, and restaurants. He specialises in New York hospitality, but has worked in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Moscow, Hong Kong and England.

His projects include work for prominent hospitality brands including Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International, MGM Resorts International, Kerzner International Resorts, and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. He believes that design is a highly interactive and collaborative process, and that the best projects are those that embrace a collaborative approach to every challenge. His work extends beyond the art and science of architecture, covering elements such as urban planning, graphic identity, website design, and education, having served as studio instructor at the School of Architecture at Woodbury University.

Stroop was the founding partner of A2 Studios, a multidisciplinary architecture firm in California. He then oversaw the architecture and interiors department as Principal at BBG-BBGM, and was later a Studio Leader at Jeffrey Beers International.

​Randa Tukan

Senior Vice President and Global Director of Hospitality - HOK Toronto

Randa Tukan is a Senior Vice President and Global Director of hospitality, based in HOK’s Toronto Office. With over 25 years of experience in interior architecture and design, both in Canada and around the world, her expertise extends far beyond the world of interiors, encompassing architecture, urban planning, landscape, and branding.

Tukan holds a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Fine Arts from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is a member of the advisory board for Humber College’s interior design program, and a site visitor for the Council of Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

With a strong focus on innovative design, Tukan’s projects have included work for hotel brands including Intercontinental, Marriott, Shangri-La, and Hyatt. Her visionary hotel of the future concept, Driftscape, was the winner of the Radical Innovation Award for 2016.

Kenneth Villamil

Global VP: Product & Brand Development - Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Centric & The Unbound Collection Hotels

Kenneth Allen Villamil is Global Vice President: Product & Brand Development, Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, & The Unbound Collection Hotels.

 Combining his background in brand strategy and interior architecture, Villamil is responsible for the comprehensive global design strategy for Hyatt Hotel's luxury, premium, and lifestyle brands. He provides leadership and creative direction to advance each brand, ensuring they translate into memorable guest experiences around the world.

 Prior to his role at Hyatt, Villami specialised in creative solutions and strategies for retail, hospitality and luxury lifestyle brands. He has spent the last 16 years honing his skills at a number of branding and architecture firms, including Gensler's Lifestyle Design Studio and most recently with Starwood Hotel's Luxury Brands Studio; overseeing St Regis, W Hotels Worldwide, Le Meridien and The Luxury Collection Hotels. Kenneth has been recognised for his accomplishments in both Interiors and Architecture winning numerous awards including the Gold Key.

Brad Wilson

President - Atelier Ace and Ace Hotel Group

Brad Wilson is President of Ace Hotels, and has previously worked with major hospitality brands including Hilton International, Park Hyatt and Westin. He was recruited to launch the first W Hotel and help guide the fledgling Starwood brand's early days, before rising to Vice President of Operation for W Worldwide, overseeing twenty properties and a corporate team of support and creative staff. From here, he helped build James Hotels from the ground up, serving as CEO and introducing sophisticated, warm, modernist design principles focused on organic materiality and authentic craft details.

Today, Brad is President and co-partner of Atelier Ace and the Ace Hotel Group, where he oversees growth and operations, and helps create new hotels and collaborative projects. Now back to his creative roots, and surrounded by innovative energy, he guides the Atelier team in developing projects, culture and processes that seek to transform the industry.


Call for Entries
01 Dec 2017
Entry Deadline
31 Jan 2018
Judging Panel Announced
07 Feb 2018
Shortlist Announced
25 Apr 2018
Judging Day
17 May 2018
Awards Ceremony
12 Jun 2018


The application of design and architecture to deliver great guest experiences are at the heart of AHEAD.

The criteria for success are based not only on creative excellence, but also on commercial viability.

As well as projects that are aesthetically impressive, the judges will be looking for evidence that winning designs have also met the needs of client and customers alike.

The judges will be looking for submissions showing rigorous and appropriate design, demonstrating a sensible use of budget to contribute to the guest experience as well as the 'theatre' of hotel life while satisfying the client brief.

Submitted material should demonstrate clearly why the project is thought to be worth an award in its chosen category and how the design sets the project at an award winning level.

Click here to see our AHEAD Checklist, which guides you through the entry process.

Eligibility / Entry

Hotel projects completed between November 2016 – December 2017 are eligible for entry to AHEAD Americas 2018.

A hotel is defined as a commercial building, or combination of buildings, primarily dedicated to the provision of lodging / accommodation. Please note privately owned accommodations exclusively rented out for lodging via peer-to-peer sites such as Airbnb are not eligible for AHEAD.

AHEAD is unique in its celebration of the key collaborators in hotel projects: the developer / investor; operator; architect and interior designer.

Anyone can enter an award, but we recommend that the designers / architects responsible for the hotel compile the entry.

Hotel owners, operators, developers, investors, PRs and other representatives are encouraged to co-ordinate entries for the hotels they represent with the relevant designers/architects.

Further guidance on specific criteria for individual categories is given here and during the entry process.

Entry costs for AHEAD Americas are £250 per entry.


Photography should clearly show the design and / or architecture of the area of the property relevant to the category in which it is entered.

If entering more than one category please submit different photographs that reflect the category you are entering.

Before and after photos, CGIs and renderings, floor plans and / or CAD drawings can be included as supporting material where relevant.

Please do not submit CGIs / renderings in place of actual photography.

Please try and avoid use of advertising or marketing photographs e.g. posed models, elaborate table settings etc.

Please ensure that you have the appropriate copyright clearances for all photography submitted (see terms and conditions)