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.


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.

Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa

Managing Director – WATG and Wimberly Interiors

Alejandra is Managing Director of WATG London. She brings over 15 years of hospitality design, planning and construction experience with projects across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean.

Most recently, Alejandra served as Vice President, Hospitality with HKS Architects in London. During her tenure at HKS, she was instrumental in growing that practice through the addition of master planning, landscape architecture, and interior design and expanding their reach to ultraluxury brands such as Cheval Blanc, Baccarat and Royal Mansour. Alejandra’s other significant projects with HKS include the Dubai Creek Master Plan, St. Regis Mallorca, Four Seasons Madinah, Cheval Blanc Dubai, Becici Oasis Resort and Residences in Montenegro LOPESAN Costa Bavaro Resort in the Dominican Republic and Fairmont Taghazout.

Prior to HKS, Alejandra held an Associate role with G1 Architects in London where she helped grow the hospitality practice and played a key role in recruitment, staff mentoring, business development and marketing. During her tenure, Alejandra’s significant projects included the O2 InterContinental Hotel London, Lagos Waterfront Marriott Nairobi, the Al Najada Mixed Use Development and Al Salwa Resort Masterplan in Qatar and Cotonou Marriott in Benin.

Christine McGinnis

Co-Founder & 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.

Dieter Schoellnberger

SVP, Design & Construction - CTF Development

Dieter joined CTF development to lead the Design & Construction Department in 2017.

He is responsible to oversee all design aspects within CTF’s portfolio in Europe, North & South America and Caribbean. Projects entail the renovation of Rosewood London, The Carlyle Hotel, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Rosewood Sao Paulo and The Beverly Wilshire. Additionally, he is working on new developments at Baha Mar Resort, Rosewood Amsterdam, Calistoga Hills and Ascaya, a private luxury community overlooking Las Vegas.

Before joining CTF, Dieter served as Vice President of Property Development for Andre Balazs Properties and Standard International. During that time, he oversaw the existing properties from Chateau Marmont, The Mercer and The Standard Hotels, but mostly focused on the developed of the Chiltern Fire House and the new Standard Hotel in London.

Dieter is an architect with over 25 years of experience in architecture, construction and interior design leading hospitality and mixed-used projects. He attended University of Technology in Vienna and Columbia University New York where he received Master’s of Science in Architectural Design.

Eva Longoria

Principal & Studio Leader – Rockwell Group

Eva is a Principal and Studio Leader of Rockwell Group’s Madrid studio, where she has contributed to a diverse portfolio of hotels, restaurants, and residences across the globe. Her Rockwell Group projects include Nobu Hotel Barcelona, Posada Terra Santa hotel (Mallorca), Seda Club Hotel (Granada), Jacqueline restaurant (Barcelona), JW Marriott Madrid, Gran Hotel Inglés (Madrid), The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, Virgin Hotels Chicago, a private villa in Portugal, and several restaurants and hotels under development in Europe, including W Naples. Prior to her role at Rockwell Group, Longoria founded her own firm, Marañón Longoria. Eva was also part of the Rockwell Group team in New York from 1995-1998. Eva graduated from New York’s Parsons School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and studied at Escuela de artes Decorativas in Spain.

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.

Koen Van Malder

Vice President, Global Design - Marriott International

Koen is responsible for overseeing architecture, interior design, and project management related activities for all Marriott brands globally.

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.

Marie Soliman

Co-Founder & Creative Director – Bergman Interiors

Marie is Founder and Creative Director of Bergman Design House and Njord by Bergman and is an award-winning designer with 20 years of design experience in the hospitality, commercial and residential sectors.

An avid visual artist as well as a designer, Marie’s keen eye for the timeless and the well-crafted has guided her on journeys around the world to spearhead such globally recognised projects as The Other house Hotel, South Kensington, The Other house Covent Garden, BXR London, Fairmont UK, Waldorf Astoria, NOR hotel Norway, and Eagle Lodge in Botswana, among others.

Dubbed a “chameleon of design” by British GQ magazine, Marie’s vision stems from her belief in the vital spark of adventurous souls who are willing to take risks and try and test new ideas in the service of creating fabulous and engaging experiences. Her goal is always to bring fresh ideas to the fore, while revelling in — not fearing — the chaos of creation.

Her latest projects include Scott’s, Sexy Fish, Wagumafia, The Other House Hotel South Kensington, and Laowai, a “hidden restaurant” concept in Vancouver, Canada’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

Philip Jaffa

Founder and Managing Director – Scape Design Associates

Philip Jaffa is the Founder and Managing Director of London-based Scape Design Associates and has over 30 years of diverse international experience in hotel and resort landscape master planning and design.

After working with the iconic New York based landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in his early career, Philip’s approach to design continues to be influenced by Friedberg’s belief that landscape architecture’s role is to connect people to themselves, to each other, and to their environment.

Having worked on award-winning projects which reflect this belief, Philip is passionate about the issues that motivate today’s ‘Conscious Traveller’ and has made it his cause to open the debate around sustainability, restoration and preservation of the world’s most precious landscapes in relation to the future of luxury travel.

"The wonderful thing about travel is that it can break down barriers – we begin to understand one another as human beings, in a way that goes past language or culture. The industry is in a unique place right now; we can be the ones that help build the bridge to connection, collaboration and promotion of a unique and harmonious relationship with the magnificent natural world we live in."

Most recently, Philip’s increasing concern about the impacts of climate change have found voice in his acclaimed design of ‘Forest for Change’ for London’s Design Biennale 2021 and in the design of an indoor forest, the “Conference of the Trees” at COP26 in Glasgow.

Scape’s recent projects include: Fairmont Taghazout Bay, Morocco; Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum; Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus; Four Seasons hotels in Dubrovnik and Santorini; Rosewood Doha; Corfu Imperial and White Palace for Grecotel; Laucala island, Fiji and several boutique eco-resort projects in Mediterranean Europe and the Canary Islands.

Reda Amalou

Founder & Partner - AW²

Reda is a French architect, trained and graduated from 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.), Reda moved back to Paris. He then joined Thurnauer Architects where he acted as a design architect for 4 years.

In 1997, he 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…

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 hotels in Budapest and Prague, which are set to open in 2025/26, heralding a wider European expansion programme. A further two new hotels in Warsaw are also expected to open in 2024 and 2026, respectively.

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.

Sarah Doyle

VP, Global Brand Leader – Design Hotels

A seasoned brand leader, Sarah spearheads the Design Hotels brand, overseeing communications, digital marketing, PR, and brand – paving the way for new innovations within the business.

Sarah discovered her love of hospitality working for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, where she spent six years and eventually became Global Brand Director for W Hotels Worldwide, opening many of the brand’s most iconic locations and leading collaborations with the likes of Will.i.am, Billboard Music and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

In addition, Sarah has also held senior leadership roles at MSC Cruises, BACARDÍ Europe and Momentum Worldwide, where she worked on marketing programs on behalf of American Express in music, fashion, and film with partners such as Sundance Film Festival and IMG / New York Fashion Week.

Sarah currently lives between London and Berlin, where you can expect to find her loyal Bernadoodle, Luna, in tow.

Sean Arnold

Crosstree Real Estate Partners – Co-Founder

Sean Arnold is a Founding Partner of Crosstree Real Estate Partners. Crosstree, based in London and founded in 2011, is a private real estate investment firm with a focus on the UK market.

Crosstree’s portfolio includes a variety of investments across sectors with a gross asset value in excess of £2 billion. Notable projects in the hotel sector include the 1 Hotel Mayfair, a 181-key sustainable luxury hotel opened in 2023; The Standard, London, a 266-key luxury lifestyle hotel in Kings Cross opened in 2019; and Mama Shelter London, a 194-key lifestyle hotel in Shoreditch opened in 2019.

Prior to setting up Crosstree, Sean was with Starwood Capital Group, most recently as Head of European Acquisitions based in London. Since joining Starwood in 2003, he played a key role in transactions for the firm valued at over $3 billion in enterprise value. Prior to joining Starwood, Sean worked in mortgage and asset backed finance. Sean received an AB in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Stanford University.

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.

Tristan Auer

Founder - Tristan Auer

An interior and emotion architect, Tristan designs beautifully sensual and singular interiors.

His extremely rich and aesthetic vision finds its finest expression in vibrant col-our, lights and era mixes. From the Hôtel de Crillon and the Bains-Douches in Paris, to the prestigious works in private houses in London and New York, all the way to Moustique Island, he operates with the style of a stage director, his client being both the main actor in his screenplay and his accomplice in this on-going quest for elegance. As an ambassador of a certain French “art de vivre”, Tristan combines his very modern vision with arts and crafts excellence to give a new definition of contemporary luxury.

Tristan grew up in Aix-en-Provence. After graduating at ESAG-Penninghen, he joined forces with the Christian Liaigre team, and then Philippe Starck before he went on starting his own interior design firm in Paris in 2002.


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