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.

Mari Balestrazzi

Director of Operations, Environments Design - Airbnb

Mari Balestrazzi is Director of Operations for the Environments team at Airbnb. Prior to her role at Airbnb, Mari was Vice President of Americas Design Services for Hyatt Hotels where she oversaw design for Hyatt's portfolio of full service brands. Previously, Mari was Senior Vice President of Design at Morgans Hotel Group where she was responsible for overseeing all design for the company and Director of Design for St. Regis Hotels at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Prior to her in-house roles, Mari was Studio Director for Aero Studios Limited in New York City where she oversaw new construction and renovation projects for both private residences and commercial projects, including 60 Thompson and Giorgio Armani’s private residence in New York.

Gray Davis

Co-founder - Meyer Davis

Gray Davis is co-founder of Meyer Davis, an award-winning interior design studio that has been globally-recognized for its work in hospitality, commercial, and luxury residential design. With offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Dubai, Meyer Davis’ public projects boast a welcoming, residential quality, and the studio’s residential projects offer a generous warmth and comfort that only seasoned hospitality designers could fashion. It is this harmonious marriage of seemingly disparate elements – public and private, old and new, uptown and downtown – that is quintessentially Meyer Davis. The studio has completed projects worldwide for unrivaled luxury brands such as 1Hotel, Crown Hotels, Four Seasons and Auberge Resorts, in addition to restaurants and retail projects for the likes of Jean Georges, and Oscar de la Renta, and private residences for luminaries like Jenna Lyons and Jorge Perez. Meyer Davis was honored in 2018 with induction into the Hospitality Design Platinum Circle, and has been recognized by AHEAD Awards for its work on Mauna Lani in Hawaii. Gray and co-founder Will Meyer debuted their eponymous product company – William Gray – in 2020.

Gary Dollens

Global Head Design / Product - Hyatt Hotels

Gary Dollens was appointed Global Head Design/Product and Brand Development for Hyatt’s Global Operations Center in October 2014. He is responsible for the direction and execution of Hyatt’s global design, overseeing Design Service offices in Chicago, Zurich, Dubai and Hong Kong. Most recently, Dollens served as Senior Vice President of Product and Brand Development focusing on Global Product Strategy. He has also held the role of Global Head - Franchise and Select Brands which included responsibility for Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, as well as Franchise and Owners Relations. Prior to that, he served as Senior Vice President of North America Operations, with oversight of Corporate Operations (Rooms, Food & Beverage, Engineering, and Spa), as well as Architecture & Design. Dollens began his career with Hyatt in Oak Brook, IL. In 1988, after holding a variety of management positionsat Hyatt properties including Dearborn, Columbus, Lake Tahoe, Memphis, San Francisco, and Waikiki,

Dollens was appointed hotel manager of Hyatt Regency Atlanta. In 1989, he was named General Manager of Hyatt Regency St.Louis, and later served in the same role at Grand Hyatt New York and Hyatt Regency Washington Capitol Hill. Following histenure as Vice President and Managing Director for Grand Hyatt

New York, Dollens joined Hyatt’s corporate office in Chicago as Vice President North America Operations in 2004. Dollens attended Western Illinois University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts Studies.

Sara Duffy

Principal - Stonehill Taylor Interiors

Sara Duffy graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and received her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. With a background in art history and television, Sara crafts a unique, immersive narrative for each of her projects with a focus on thoughtful, classic design. Her impressive variety of projects includes the Nomad Hotel and Bar in New York and its re-iteration in Las Vegas, the J.W. Marriott Nashville, and the iconic TWA Hotel at JFK Airport’s historic TWA Flight Center. She has worked with renowned hospitality developers such as the Sydell Group, Eleven Madison Park’s Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, Marriott International, Turnberry Associates, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Leo Eskenazi

Vice President Architecture & Design - Hilton Worldwide

Leo Eskenazi is an architect with 30 years of experience in architecture, construction and Interior design leading hospitality, gaming and mixed-use projects in the US and internationally. In his role of Vice President of Architecture and Design at Hilton Worldwide, he manages the design process of all new development, conversion and renovation projects in Latin American and Caribbean including Luxury, Full service, focused service, lifestyle hotels and resorts. Leo is also responsible for the development of Brand prototypes and global Design initiatives.

Alessia Genova

Managing Partner - Tihany Design

Ms. Genova began her career at Tihany Design in 2007, and after rising as a senior designer, held a pivotal leadership role for over ten years culminating with her appointment as Studio Director in 2017. Early this year Ms. Genova was named Managing Partner, signifying a new chapter in the firm’s 42-year history.

Ms. Genova brings a truly global perspective and uniquely innovative outlook to every project. Her strength in concept and presentation development draws from her passion for identifying the story behind each design project and bringing the vision to life for clients. Ms. Genova frequently collaborates with world renowned chefs, creating signature restaurant interiors for stars such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Richard Ekkebus. She has been instrumental in Tihany Design’s integration into the cruise industry and in 2019 was included as part of Boutique Design magazine’s Boutique 18 rising stars of hospitality design. Key career projects include The Oberoi New Delhi, Four Seasons Dubai DIFC, Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Bocuse at The Culinary Institute of America, Oro at the Belmond Cipriani in Venice, Bar Boulud Boston, the Dubai villa private residence and Mandarin Oriental Bosphorous, Istanbul, opening late 2020.

Ari Heckman

Founding Partner - ASH NYC

Ari Heckman is Chief Executive Officer and co-founding partner of ASH NYC - the internationally renowned design and development firm with a mission of transforming spaces into into multi-sensory, one-of-a-kind experiences.

Heckman is responsible for the leading the company’s vertically integrated team of experts spanning design, development, finance, property management, acquisitions, marketing and branding.

ASH NYC is most recognized for its collection of boutique hotels, celebrated for their ability to reinvigorate historic properties into immersive story-telling narratives, that include The Dean (Providence, RI), The Siren (Detroit, MI), Hotel Peter & Paul (New Orleans) and a forthcoming hotel in Baltimore. The firm’s home furnishing and staging division, ASH Staging, is equally notable for its growing success in New York and and Los Angeles.

Under Ari’s leadership, ASH NYC has been recognized by New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, Conde Nast Traveler, Surface, TIME Magazine and Wallpaper, and is named one of Architectural Digest’s AD100 firms, which recognizes the word’s leading design teams.

A native of Providence, Heckman graduated with honors from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University. Heckman currently splits his time between Manhattan, Los Angeles and Sag Harbor, NY.

Verena Haller

Chief Design Officer - Standard Hotels

Verena Haller joined Standard International from Equinox Hotels, where she informed the creation of the Brand, Design Vision and Guest Experience for its new concept. She began her hospitality career with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, refining & honing her hospitality and design knowledge. For over a decade, Verena has worked with leading brands, designing for The W, Four Seasons, and James hotels. Verena went on to join Ian Schrager as EVP of Architecture and Design, working on and opening a variety of Edition Hotels and The Public Chicago. She later partnered with Morgans Hotel Group as SVP of Design, defining the brand’s next steps. She opened properties in London, Las Vegas, Istanbul etc., utilizing her expertise to help create the brand as it is today.

Currently Chief Design Officer for Standard International, she is helping to expand The Standard label and brand worldwide, with their first international property opening in London later this year. Verena’s unique innovative vision and refined eye for detail has greatly contributed to the overall success in the expansion and evolution of The Standard.

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.

Greg Keffer

Partner / Studio Leader - Rockwell Group

Greg Keffer is a Partner and Studio Leader at Rockwell Group, where he oversees a wide variety of project types, including hospitality, retail, residential, and workplace environments. Greg's combined strengths in architecture, interiors, graphics, and branding allow him to develop innovative and holistic design solutions for a global roster of clients.

Current projects include Moxy Chelsea in New York, Nobu Hotel Barcelona, 15 Hudson Yards in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Warner Music Group Headquarters in Los Angeles, W Nashville, and the Kempinski Hotel Chengdu. Greg also has extensive luxury residential experience, including 111 Murray in New York, Sky in New York, and Station House in Washington, D.C. Other notable projects include the iconic New York restaurants Nobu Downtown and Union Square Cafe, NeueHouse in New York and Los Angeles, Chefs Club in New York, The Time hotel in New York, Hotel EMC2 in Chicago, the MGM Cotai, the Doheny Room and Nightingale Plaza in Los Angeles, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City and Five50 Pizza Bar at the Aria in Las Vegas.

Little Wing Lee

Design Director - Atelier Ace

Over the past fifteen years, her sharp eye for color, texture and materiality along with her thoughtful and narrative-driven approach brought her to work with some of the most renownedand inventivedesign firms including SOM, Rockwell Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, APPARATUS and Ace Hotel Group/Atelier Ace–where she currently holds the position of Design Director. In 2019, she started her own interior design studio, Studio & Projects, she also publicly launched Black Folks in Design, an organization whose mission is to bring awareness to and promote thecultural contributions, excellence, and importance of Black designers.



Eileen Madigan

ASID Senior Vice President Global Interior Design Las Vegas Sands Corporation

Leads "Design Excellence" vision for the brand’s luxury integrated Mixed Use Resorts. Manages over 4.5+ Billion in Cap-X projects. Oversees the global design team 30+ in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Las Vegas. Prior to this role Eileen was the Vice President for Creative Four Seasons Hotels and Rosewood Hotels.

Lisa Pasternack

Senior Director, Design + Innovation - Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

As , Lisa provides design oversight for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts across all new builds and capital projects and is responsible for guiding and supporting the Global Design + Innovation teams based in Toronto, Dubai, and Singapore. In conjunction with Four Seasons internal teams and project consultants, Lisa works with the team to establish the appropriate design language for each project, focused on conveying the Four Seasons commitment to quality and luxury. With a keen eye for design and details, Lisa is also constantly on the lookout for new and emerging design talents who can help bring these projects to life.

Over Lisa’s 24 years with Four Seasons, she has led the design and construction of several properties, gaining valuable insight into the world of new builds and renovations, and has been instrumental in keeping the Design Standards current for over a decade. Lisa managed the design and construction of the Four Seasons R&D Studio based in Toronto, is involved in several new initiatives both within the Design + Innovation department and company-wide and has advanced improvements to our Fitness Facilities. Her knowledge of luxury hospitality and her attention to detail are valuable assets in her drive towards product excellence.

Anne Wilkinson

Principal - BAMO

With 25 years of experience in luxury hotel and residential design, Anne Wilkinson brings an unparalleled amount of knowledge to each new project. A New York native, Anne earned her Design degree from Cornell University, alongside interests in theatrical lighting, classical and modern dance. Named Principal of BAMO in 2017, Anne has contributed to the growth and success of the firm since its inception.

Working around the globe in vibrant urban or resort destinations, including some of the most pristine and sensitive environments, Anne has the ability to create settings that not only speak to the destination but also respect the people and place. Her strong understandingof the complexities of hotel design allow her to develop creative and innovative solutions that improve the overall guest experience andadd to the client’s success. Anne infuses a marked sense of style and place into her elegant and cohesive designs.