AHEAD Europe 2023

2023 Judging

The judging panel for AHEAD Europe - comprising architects, interior designers, hoteliers and industry commentators - follows a carefully developed judging process to ensure a rigorous and balanced approach, with the criteria for success based not only on creative excellence guest experience but commercial viability.

To learn more, download AHEAD's 2023 entry guidelines, which includes details on eligibility and a step-by-step guide on how to enter.

Entries for AHEAD Europe 2023 close on 28 July.


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.

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.

Christine McGinnis

Design Director - WAVE

Christine is a Design Director with twenty six years of global design experience, specialising in hospitality design. Prior to joining Wave, Christine has held multiple leadership roles within the industry and most recently was the Vice President of Property Development - Asia TSA & Design for Standard International where she was responsible for the design strategy and overall technical excellence of Standard International’s expansion and projects within the Asia Pacific region.

Prior to joining Standard International, she was an Associate Vice President at WATG leading projects such as: Aloft Seminyak, Four Seasons Hanoi F&B Strategy and Interiors, Belmond Eastern & Oriental Presidential Suites & Spa, Marriott Kolkata, Crimson Resort & Spa Boracay, and Swissotel Xiangtan.

While Managing Director of AvroKO, Christine founded the Bangkok office and was responsible for the development, strategic and overall performance of AvroKO projects within the Asia Pacific region.

Prior to joining AvroKO, she was with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. where she began as a member of the Westin design team, translating new brand positioning around “Renewal” into memorable design expressions and global guidelines. Christine progressed to guide the design efforts in the launch of Starwood’s first eco-friendly brand Element Hotels. She shaped the creative direction for both Aloft and Element Hotels. Rounding out her tenure at Starwood, she returned to the Global Brand Design group providing direction for luxury brands St. Regis and The Luxury Collection.

Christine is a steadfast believer in the power of design- how it deeply impacts the human spirit, and the responsibility that designers have in shaping our world for the better.

Federico Toresi

Global VP, Design, Premium & Luxury 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.

Iain Ainsworth

Founder - The Aficionados

Iain is the founder and creator of The Aficionados - a highly sought travel reference for those who seek fabulous hotels that fuse effortless luxe, sound design and authenticity.

The Aficionados feature some 90+ European hotels, private-hire design houses and creatively inspired guesthouses alongside a rafter of more than 100 makers, producing an emporium of online travel culture and lifestyle. The company also publishes four style-led magazines: Blueprint Beauts, Farmhouse Fabulous, Casa Gorgeous and Neu Heritage.

Before setting up his company, Iain spent four years on a non-stop travel hike as Executive Vice President at Design Hotels AG, whereby his passion for architecture and hotel interiors flourished. Previously he enjoyed the high life at the French Taittinger group as regional Marketing & Sales Director - Concorde Hotels & Resorts for Hotel de Crillon Paris and the Martinez Cannes. Iain also lived in Berlin for ten years, moving there just after the Berlin wall fell. He worked for several years in publishing before returning to the hotel world and Kempinski Hotels as Director of Sales & Marketing, including the pre-opening of Hotel Adlon Berlin.

Iain is an enthusiastic entrepreneur with some 26 years of hotel marketing & brand experience, a keen lover of local hero concept hotels that are crafted, ooze personality, have a soul and were simply cast just for their neighbourhood.

Jese Medina-Suarez

Creative Director & Principal, EMEA - Campbell House

Jese has developed an expertise on hospitality and F&B design, but his experience stretches across multiple sectors such as aviation, residential, retail and workplace projects. During the last 15 years, Jese has been based in the cities of London, Paris, Milan, Singapore & Melbourne where he has worked on projects in all 5 the inhabited continents, and has explored the ever blurrier boundaries between the hospitality world and other design sectors.

He has worked for a number of high-profile clients and brands such as Four Seasons, St Regis, Conrad, Jumeirah, British Airways and Hakkasan to mention a few. He has worldwide experience across all aspects of interior projects, from concept design through to final construction; however, his distinctive approach hinges on his expertise on the meaning of ‘brand’ in architecture and interiors, bringing forefront brand strategy and powerful storytelling to the very core of the design process in multiple projects.

Jonny Sin

Board Director - ReardonSmith Architects

Jonny is a Board Director of ReardonSmith Architects and has extensive experience in the delivery of luxury hotel developments. He joined RSA in 2011, and his leadership qualities, collaborative instinct and committed work ethic have ensured his swift promotion to board director.

Jonny is highly skilled in taking both new-build and refurbishment projects all the way from early inception to completion and his experience in the hospitality sector ranges from Grade II Listed heritage projects to high-rise developments. One of his projects, The Beaumont in Mayfair, London was awarded “Best Hotel in the World” upon its opening in 2014. During this project, Jonny worked closely with noted British artist Sir Antony Gormley bringing together art and architecture in a unique way. Most recently, he has acted as Hotel Operational Planning Consultant for Zaha Hadid Architects and is currently undertaking a similar role on an exciting new hotel development in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Jonny is also leading the architectural and design team on one of London’s most prestigious hotel schemes; the renovation of The Dorchester, a Grade II listed, 250-key hotel.

ReardonSmith Architects was founded in 1988 to provide a specialised architectural service dedicated to the hotel and hospitality industry in all its forms and is today an award-winning global leader in international hotel and resort design. The RIBA and CIAT Chartered Practice has an unrivalled track record in the restoration of luxury hotels in London and major European cities, an enviable reputation for the design of new destinations in Europe and the widest experience of hotel architecture across the entire spectrum of new-build and existing estates. The company’s achievement stems from a profound understanding of hotels – as an asset, an operation and as a guest experience.

Koen Van Malder

Continent Leader, Global Design, EMEA - Marriott International

As Continent Leader of Global Design (EMEA), Koen Van Malder is responsible for overseeing architecture, interior design, and project management related activities for all Marriott brands in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Koen joined Marriott as part of the Starwood acquisition in April 2017, after ten years with Starwood. He has held a number of leadership positions in both Starwood and Marriott focusing on growth, speed to market and efficiency.

Prior to joining Marriott Koen worked as Project Architect on various international Hotel projects for several architectural practices in Brussels and London, ReardonSmith Architects being one of them.

Koen holds a Masters (Hons) in Architecture from Sint-Lucas in Brussels, an Executive MBA from London Business School and is a licensed Architect in the UK.

Maria Garcia-Arribas

Studio Director, Madrid - BAR Studio

Over the past two decades, Maria has forged an impressive career in international hospitality design. After completing her qualifications in Spain and Italy, and gaining experience on Italian residential and hospitality projects, Maria’s spirit of exploration and cultural curiosity took her to the Asia-Pacific. There she joined a boutique firm in Melbourne, Australia, contributing to regional builds in Taipei and Shanghai, including the acclaimed The PuLi Hotel and Spa.

Maria joined Melbourne-based BAR Studio in 2010, where she has worked across all aspects of the award-winning practice, from leading teams in developing concept designs to seeing projects through to successful completion. Later, after a return to her home city, Madrid, Maria collaborated with BAR to establish the studio’s first European base. Today, Maria oversees BAR Studio’s European operation, serving as a client liaison and project lead on the firm’s luxury hospitality projects in the region.

Reda Amalou

Founder & Partner - AW²

Reda is a French architect, trained and graduated at the University of East London in Great Britain, under the direction of Elias Zenghelis and Eleni Gigantes. After a few years working for London based firms, mainly as a project architect for projects across Europe (Switzerland, France, etc.) he moved back to Paris. He then joined Thurnauer Architects where he acted as a design architect for 4 years.

In 1997, Reda founded AW² - Architecture Workshop - in Paris. Stéphanie Ledoux, a graduate from the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture, Paris, joined him in 2000 and became a partner in 2003. Both partners have led the studio in tandem ever since and play an active role in the design of each project.

With projects in 40 different countries, the studio has an international reputation for quality high-end design. Luxury hotels and high-end interiors are now an important part of its activity. The studio covers all project typologies including hospitality, residential, facilities, education, offices, and retail.

AW² has received several awards over the years including the MIPIM Best Hotel Award for the Six Senses Con Dao resort, the Build Architecture Award for Best International Architecture & Design Studio – Paris, and four nominations for the AFEX Grand Prize in French Overseas Architecture for Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam, the Lycée Français in Amman, Jordan, Ani Sri Lanka & Art Academy in Sri Lanka and Kasiiya Papagayo eco-lodge in Costa Rica.

At AW², both partners have always chosen to conceive architecture in its entirety: from the scale of the architecture to the scale of the furniture. It is in this continuity that Reda Amalou founded his own furniture and object design company: Reda Amalou Design in 2013.

In 2006, Reda became a member of the board of AFEX (French Architects for Export) where he held several positions on the Board of Directors; until his election as President of AFEX in 2022.

Ria Vogiatzi

Founder & CEO - Elastic Architects

Ria was born in Athens, Greece and completed her studies in the Architecture school of the National Technical University of Athens.

The sculptural approach of her design, deconstruction of fluid forms, was the inspiration for the name of the architectural studio, ELASTIC Architects, founded in 2005 together with Architect Alexandros Xenos, which is now an international architectural brand with a global portfolio that includes mainly hotel and mixed-use resort projects, with a clientele of Aman Resorts, Janu by Aman, One & Only Resorts, Marriott, Accor, Nammos Restaurants & Hotels, Nobu, Hyatt, The Edition, Brown Hotels, Banyan Tree Resorts etc.

Fortune magazine recognised her as a Trailblazer for her avant-garde design, she was awarded the World Woman Leader of Advanced Architecture by the Who is Who International Awards, and has been announced as Ambassador of Advanced Architecture.

Her projects have received multiple awards in America, Europe and England, and she has given important speeches on architecture, both in Greece and abroad.

Rob Steul

Co-Founder - Steul+Thompson Architects

Rob has practiced architecture for over 30 years working around the world on hotel, resort and branded residential design projects.

Having just completed The Londoner for Edwardian Hotels in London’s Leicester Square, Rob led the design from inception through planning permission and detail design while collaborating with Woods Bagot Architects, interior designers Yabu Pushelberg, and Arup engineers. This follows several London hotels where he was lead designer: Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square, Firmdale's Ham Yard Hotel, Eccleston Square Hotel and various properties for Edwardian Hotels including the group's May Fair Hotel and newly refurbished Edwardian Manchester hotel.

His design approach – understand the brief and what the client goals are, then begin with the spatial design and the way people move through and interact with the space.

Rob continues to work with Edwardian Hotels, where he is Creative Director, as well as being a founding partner in Steul+Thompson Architects.

Rune Askevold

President, Management Board - PURO Hotels

Rune is the Co-Founder and CEO of PURO Hotels. The group opened their first hotel in 2011 and currently have 7 hotels in prime locations in the major cities of Poland. Work has begun on a new hotel in Budapest which is set to open in 2024, heralding a wider European expansion programme. A further two new hotels in Warsaw are also expected to open in 2024.

With a strong passion for craftsmanship and design, Rune is deeply involved in the creative direction of PURO and leads the creative team. Working closely with the finest international interior design studios has led to the creation of unique and refined experiences of contemporary luxury. The commissioning of local artists and designers results in an authentic and crafted ambiance in tune with the neighbourhood of each hotel.

Rune is Norwegian and PURO Hotels has a strong sense of the Scandinavian spirit of ‘hygge’ in the way the hotels are run, their strong sense of local connection and their creative path.

PURO Hotels have been frequently shortlisted in Sleeper magazine’s AHEAD Awards, winning at AHEAD Europe in 2019.

Sam Hall

Director, Interior Design (Europe) - InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

With a career spanning over 25 years, Sam is an experienced interior designer with a passion for the hospitality industry and has established herself as a prominent figure in the field. Sam joined the InterContinental Hotel Group at the beginning of the year and brings a wealth of expertise and creativity to craft remarkable hotel interiors.

Throughout her career, Sam has collaborated with various hotel owners and operators, contributing to the transformation of numerous properties. Notably, she spent a decade at G.A Design, one of the industry’s foremost international hospitality design consultancies. During this time, she honed her skills and played a pivotal role in delivering exceptional design solutions for prestigious hotels worldwide.

With an impressive portfolio of successful projects and a commitment to excellence, Sam continues to shape the world of hospitality design, creating unforgettable spaces that leave a lasting impression on guests and clients alike.

Toni Black

Director of Interior Design - Blacksheep

Toni Black is an interior designer with experience heading large scale project in the middle east, Africa and Europe for over 18+ years. She began her design carer as a lighting design consultant working on iconic buildings and redevelopment projects for award winning practices then moving into interior design.

Toni's previous projects range from bespoke private residencies and palaces, shopping centres including hospitality developments of circa 150million GDV, and large airports developments.

Toni has a great understanding of space enabling her to create and re-invent exquisite balanced interiors. She has worked with clients such as; Marriott Courtyard, Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection, Fairmont, Sheraton, The Ritz Carlton, Le Meridian, Hilton, Park Inn, Burberry, Dubai & Jeddah International Airport.


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