AHEAD Europe 2021

2021 Judging

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

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

Alba Biedermann

Global Director, Brand Portfolio - Design Hotels

Alba joined Design Hotels to manage the curation and qualitative growth of the member portfolio in EMEA.

Alba believes in visionaries with an imaginative spirit who dare to seek the unexpected and create original experiences for the traveler of tomorrow. Her multidisciplinary background and intuitive sense for aesthetics, culture and branding in the digital and physical space, let her shape the collection of Design Hotels members – and contribute to the strategic development and further evolution of the brand.

Previously, Alba spent six years successfully contributing to developing a digital lifestyle agency in London and Germany, where she worked with prestigious clients like Net-a-Porter, Alexander McQueen and Made.com.

As an Alumni of Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Alba has a solid understanding of the hospitality industry. Her curiosity for the lifestyle sector and appreciation for sophisticated design led to a Masters in Fashion & Luxury Brand Management at Istituto Marangoni in London as well as Interior Design courses at Central Saint Martin.

Chris Penn

Co-Founder - Birch and Steel Hotels

Chris Penn is an experienced operator, creator and curator of hospitality experiences. A career spanning 25 years has seen him operate hotels across a broad spectrum of markets, including the lifestyle segment within which he has become well known.

Chris left employment in 2016 to build his own hotel businesses and has created two brands, Steel and Birch, the latter of which launched to huge acclaim in 2020. He is a pioneer of new experience, a believer in challenging impossible both personally and professionally and an ambassador for humanity in hospitality.

Christopher Webb (Chair)

Vice President, Architecture & Design, EMEA - Hilton Worldwide

Christopher leads Hilton’s Architecture and Design team across multiple offices, overseeing and guiding design projects across Hilton’s Europe, Middle East & Africa region.

Chris has been designing and shaping international luxury, lifestyle, and full service hotels for a wide range of owners, developers, hospitality companies, celebrities and brands for over 20 years. Directing the design of all Hilton branded hotels in the region, he led the design of the first Waldorf Astoria, as well as most recently the category defining Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre, Hilton’s first lifestyle hotel.

Dennis Irvine

Director - Richmond International

Dennis is a Director at Richmond International, passionate about all things design, ensuring integrity, honesty and inherent design flair in all his projects. Prior to joining Richmond International, Dennis founded and led Dennis Irvine Studio delivering worldwide luxury projects ranging from wellness SPA’s, private residences, super yachts to restaurants and hotels for prestigious operators both renowned and independent. Clients have included Marriott Luxury Collection, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Raffles Hotels & Resorts, The Dorchester Collection and Waldorf Astoria Hotels.

Dennis previously worked for several renowned London design studios and worked on prestigious and unique projects to hone his design skills, spearheading international projects from concept to completion.

Through global travel and engaging in multiple luxury commissions, Dennis has gained a wealth of design experience. Exposure to various cultures and collaborations has enriched his design aesthetic. His innate ability to respect and refine the client’s vision informs the studios ethos and principles.

Dennis has previously won an AHEAD Europe award and was listed in House and Garden’s ‘Leading 100 Interior Designers’ and Country & Townhouse ‘Finest 50 Interior Designers’. He often speaks at major industry events and his work is regularly published in Sleeper, Forbes, AD, Robb Report, Hospitality Design & House & Garden.

Federico Toresi (Chair)

Global VP, Design, Luxury & Premium Brands - Accor

Born in Rome, growing-up in London and currently residing in Paris, Federico explains his design thinking by comparing it to his barbecuing skills: nomadic but rooted in European traditions, informed by an experimental antipodean approach and with a twist of American confidence.

Federico leads the team that defines the design and product strategy and creates standards and concept guidelines for Accor’s luxury and premium hospitality brands, overseeing design initiatives to evolve the design, performance, guest experience and market development of their brands.

A qualified architect with over 20 years of experience in hospitality, focusing on the design of hotels, resorts, private residences and high-end retail, he delivers experience driven luxury projects and has overseen the development of innovative and award-winning destinations.

Federico’s strategic team is the key link between the Luxury, Premium, Lifestyle & Partner Brands and the Regional Design & Technical Services Teams, working closely with Operations, Marketing, Brand and Development, facilitating concept creation with the necessary market adaptations across the globe.

Geraldine Dohogne

Head of Concept & Interior Design - BEYOND DESIGN

Geraldine Dohogne is a concept designer by passion, whose love for creating unique spaces has grown over the years. Involved in every phase of a new hotel project, she is in charge of conceptualizing, creating environments and bringing them to life.

Geraldine believes in the power of beautiful interiors to transform daily life. Her interiors are designed to be intimate. It is all about instinct and emotions. For this, she always aims to understand the history of the location, spending time in the country and meeting locals. Respectful of the culture and traditions of the area, the designs of her spaces are the result of intense sourcing (magnificent local materials, antique furniture, crafts and natural fabrics).

She prides herself on her attention to detail, her obsession with quality and her love for the designs of local craftspeople. The search for timeless minimalism and apparent simplicity are central to her work, as is the love of tactile and raw materials.

Henry Reeve

Director of Interior Design - IHG

Henry Reeve as Director of Interior Design for InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) is responsible for the design, development and product quality of all new openings and refurbishments of both Kimpton and Hotel Indigo properties across the EMEAA region.

Since joining IHG in 2015, Henry has become an integral part of the Design & Engineering team. Henry has been instrumental in positioning both the neighbourhood story led boutique brand Hotel Indigo and launching Luxury brand Kimpton into Europe to ultimately deliver over 40 brand defining and often award winning boutique and luxury hotels across the EMEAA region.

Henry has worked across the majority of IHGs brands. Notable projects include the successful creation and subsequent roll-out of the new Holiday Inn Express Design scheme across the wider European region, in addition to leading the creation of the noted Luxury eco-led QO Amsterdam Hotel.

Prior to joining IHG Henry was Associate Director at forpeople, and a Creative Director and Designer at a number of guest experience, retail, and event agencies based across London. Henry has worked for clients as diverse as Nike, Lotus, Peugeot, Mulberry, Bollinger, Pfizer, Coca-Cola & McDonalds.

Iype Abraham

Commercial Development Director - Edwardian Group

Jason Wischhoff

Managing Director, Benihana - Minor International

Jason has almost two decades of experience executing significant developments throughout Europe for several renowned hotel chains.

His passion for dining and nightlife, anchored to a deep knowledge of hotel brands in the upper lifestyle/luxury sector, has, in recent years, been his motivation.

Jason joined Benihana, part of Minor International, in Q4 2019. He is responsible for the global growth (outside the US, Caribbean & South America) and operational strategy for a group in its 58th year.

His philosophy on the brand is simple; everyone who visits Benihana will enjoy the theatre at the heart of the experience, where the chefs are the entertainers, and our guests are the show's stars. The performance enjoyed in this culinary extravaganza has set new global standards in the world of experiential dining.

Benihana holdings have 19 locations across 12 countries with a solid growth trajectory of additional restaurants to forthcoming openings in Europe, Canada, the Middle East & Asia.

Linda Boronkay

Founder & Design Director - Linda Boronkay Design Studio

Renowned in the industry for her warm and emotionally intelligent approach, Linda’s 14-year career has seen her work for an impressive roster of global clients. Before founding her own studio in 2020, Linda was Design Director of Soho House where she was responsible for Asia, Europe and the UK regions, overseeing a team of nearly one hundred people including architects, interior designers and a procurement team. She took overall design responsibility for members’ clubs, overseeing hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, lounges, event and co-working spaces, bespoke furniture lines and home accessories.

Previously Linda worked at leading architecture and design practices including Tom Dixon, Martin Brudnizki, Woods Bagot and Tara Bernerd, collaborating on sites and destinations for Caprice Holdings, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Greenland Group, Morgans (now SBE), Nobu Global, Qantas, Starwood Capital and Virgin Hotels.

Linda grew up in Hungary and her passion for design was ignited by her parents; her father is an architect and her mother, a passionate collector of arts and antiques, founded a Pulitzer winning design magazine. Linda trained to be a fashion designer in Paris before deciding on a career in interior design. Drawing daily inspiration from art, fashion, literature, music, cinema, architecture and craft, she aims to create projects that balance individuality and functionality, heritage and modernity, character and comfort. She is in demand as an industry commentator, speaker, design columnist and judge.

Matthew Seal

Senior Director, Luxury Brands - Marriott International

Matthew's passion for creative design can be traced back to his academic days when he would undertake a very creative based curriculum including photography, technical design and art. He continually pursues to work and collaborate with varied creative teams globally.

For the last 20 years, Matthew has been focused purely in hospitality design which has taken him on some fascinating adventures. Travelling all over the world, he is - at heart - a problem solver who builds strong design teams, with a personal passion for hospitality design and development. Matthew is now focused upon developing Marriott’s Luxury Brands across EMEA.

Richard McConkey

Founder - A Studio Between

Before founding A Studio Between in 2022, Richard McConkey was Head of Hospitality at Universal Design Studio, having led, designed and delivered many of Universal’s award-winning projects. These include the AHEAD-winning At Six hotel in Stockholm, ground floor architecture for Ace Hotel London, nine iterations of the Frieze Art Fair in both London & New York and the guestrooms and suites at the 381-room Villa Copenhagen.

Now as founder of bespoke practice A Studio Between, Richard is developing a studio that is original, open and quietly radical in its approach. Currently working across hospitality and arts projects in Europe, UK & the US, the studio is focusing on delivering deeply crafted, personal and people-focused responses to place.

Stefan Rier

Co-Founder - noa* network of architecture

Stefan Rier graduated in interior design from Centro Studi "AndreaPalladio", Verona, Italy, and in architecture from the Technical University Ferrara, Italy. He first worked as an architect and project leader with Arch.Demetz, then moved to Bergamo to work with Prof. Massimiliano Mandarini and finally in Milan with Matteo Thun. He received his professional qualification as an interior designer and architect from the Universita di Genova. Stefan has been focusing on a series of projects from sustainable housing to hotels, extending to interiors, landscaping and bespoke furniture design. He is now a member of the Architectural Chamber of Bozen/Bolzano.

Tina Norden

Partner - Conran and Partners

Tina Norden is an architect and interior designer with a diverse portfolio stretching across many contexts and continents, from hotel and restaurant design to high-end residential. She studied architecture at Westminster before joining Conran and Partners in 1997, completing her MA in Architecture + Interiors at the Royal College of Art in 2000.

With every project, Tina approaches the brief by delving into its context and unique history to create timeless spaces that tell a story. She designs for style over fashion to ensure the result is long-lasting and consistently fresh.

Tina has recently completed the new Park Hyatt Auckland and is working on two subsequent projects in Asia Pacific. She is also working on a number of high profile residential developments in the region.

Other recently completed projects include the new FEAST restaurant within Hong Kong’s EAST Hotel, Hotel Maximilian in Prague and the White Label QO for the IHG hotel brand in Amsterdam. She also led the design for the F+B areas at Hotel Icon, the refurbishment of the Hong Kong Club, the Roppongi Hills Club for Mori Building in Tokyo and the recent KEF Gallery in Central alongside a number of hospitality and residential projects in both Asia and the UK with a particular focus on public areas and F&B spaces.