CID Awards 2014: Meet the Judges

Barbara Bochnak

With the CID Awards just around the corner, it’s time to step up preparations. Between nomination submissions, judging and preparing for the event, there’s a lot to do in so little time.

In previous issues, we’ve outlined how to nominate and introduced you to our wonderful sponsors, but with the awards set for 15 September at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai, it’s now time to take a look at our fantastic judges.

For the past seven years, the industry’s key professionals from companies across the GCC and Levant have entered the esteemed Commercial Interior Design Awards with winning enthusiasm.


Those who have entered in the past have looked forward to not only winning their relevant categories, but also gaining the recognition of their peers for their hard work and materialised efforts over the past year.

As always, the Commercial Interior Design Awards recognises projects that span across seven categories in sectors like hospitality, institutional, office and residential. The awards also honour individuals and firms who’ve made an impact on design this year through such categories as Interior Design Firm of the Year and the Behind the Scenes award.

As we’ve mentioned in previous issues, there’s a new category to look forward to this year: Boutique Design Firm of the Year, which awards the interior design firm with a staff of less than 20 employees that has completed the most impressive work in the past 12 months.

Nominations are open to all design firms and studios that are located within the Middle East region. Whether you’re a large shark or a small fish, we’re sure you have work worth boasting about, so it’s important to get your nominations in. If you work in a design firm then you’re capable of submitting various individuals as well as projects into the different categories.

Nominations for this year’s Commercial Interior Design Awards have been open for quite some time and designers only have one more month to submit any remaining projects relevant to this year’s awards.

To submit your nominations, please visit The deadline for all submissions is Monday 21 July, 2014, and while it may come off as a tedious process to some, the rewards are great. Besides winning a possible award for your esteemed work, you’ll also get one night to socialise, network and dine with the region’s leading interior designers.

Previously, readers were introduced to our sponsors who outlined their hopes for the evening of the Commercial Interior Design awards. From Marina Home Interiors to Preciosa, Delta Faucet, AHEC, Al Futtaim and many more, our sponsors are promising this year’s event will be the best one. So while you may have attended the past seven editions, we guarantee the eighth will stand out in memory.

The individuals chosen to judge this year’s Commercial Interior Design Awards create a star-studded judging panel.

On the list, we have: Dean Skira, founder of Skira lighting; Barbara Bochnak, lead architect, Zaha Hadid Architects; Michelle Evans, creative director, AyKa design; Peter Aylett, technical director, Archimedia; Bruce Paget, interior design lecturer, Heriot-Watt University Dubai; Alan McCready, managing director Middle East, ISG; Laura Bielecki, senior interior designer, Godwin Austen Johnson and founder of Luxury Interior Design blog; Alfred Johnson, founder and principal of Alfred Johnson Design; Rachael Brown, director, Capsule Arts; and Linsey Thomson, interior design teaching fellow, Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

Barbara Bochnak Currently a lead architect at the global multidisciplinary studio Zaha Hadid Architects, Barbara Bochnak is working on creating transformative spaces and objects that work in harmony with their existing environments.

A recent project of hers is the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and currently, Bochnak is working on a prestigious hospitality development in Dubai.

Bochnak explained: “I have been working in the United Arab Emirates for the last three years and during that time, I have been exposed to many talented individuals that now have the opportunity to showcase their talents and create a unique design language for the region.”

She added: “I am honoured to be offered a chance to observe this process closely.”

Bochnak is looking forward to the Young Interior Design of the Year category the most, as she believes in supporting young creative talents. “It’s very important to recognise talent and to create the right environment allowing it to blossom,” she said.

Bochnak hopes to see new trends and innovation in the submissions. While she will be looking for combinations of form and function, she said: “An ideal design would be holistic and pushing boundaries, and at the same time, correspond with its context and culture while creating real value for clients and users.”

Bruce Paget As an academic currently teaching at Heriot Watt University Dubai, Bruce Paget has professional experience in interior design as well as a background in furniture design, interior design and architectural technology from the UK.

“Being in teaching, it’s vital to maintain a connection with the industry—it benefits the students but can also be a way for prospective employers to hear about our latest highly talented students. It’s also a good way for me to keep up to date with the latest projects from around the region all from the comfort of a dining chair,” said Paget about his reasons to join the judging panel.

Commercial Interior Design Awards 2013 was Paget’s first time experiencing the process and found it a good place to meet a collection of people from the industry all at once.

Though, when he speaks of last year’s submissions he said: “Projects ranged from the ambitious to the less, so I would like to see stronger completion in some of the categories.”

Paget looks forward to the retail sector as he’s interested in seeing what the new trends are. Also, he finds the Young Designer of the Year intriguing as well.

He said: “I’m hoping that our own students will feature in this category in the near future, so [I am] interested to see what the standard is.”

Alan McCready Originally from Ireland, Alan McCready has worked in international construction contracting for ISG for the past six years. This year will be McCready’s fourth time as a judge and finds that “having previously been involved as a judge, I find the whole experience informative and enlightening, learning [about] the leading designers’ thoughts as they explain the rationale behind their best work.”

This year, McCready hopes that the quality of the submissions surpasses that of last year’s. He explained: “Hospitality in particular was quite limited on the number of quality entries and I expect that to change this year, with much more happening in the hotel sector. In my opinion, I believe the judges called the result about right for most categories with no real surprises.

“ISG is lucky to be working during the past year with many of the region’s leading design companies, including Bluehaus Group, Godwin Austen Johnson, and Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will, and all of them have produced designs that are capable of winning awards.”

McCready believes that the hospitality category will bring in the most exciting projects, as the region’s hospitality market sector has been receiving widespread attention and investment over the past year.

McCready will be looking for clarity of thought, great use of space, form over colour and texture in winning projects.

Michelle Evans As last year’s winner of CID Awards’ Interior Designer of the Year category, Karen Michelle Evans has over twenty years of experience in various hospitality projects worldwide. While she previously worked with HBA, Evans has recently launched AyKa Design, her first private collection of hand knotted rugs.

“I think it’s important to see how the design industry changes our every day surroundings, especially as Dubai is constantly becoming a more creative design force to be noticed worldwide,” said Evans. “So becoming a judge is a great opportunity to be able to see some of the best-designed projects first-hand and to meet many of our talented designers in this region.”

Having previously won an award, Evans recalled last year’s awards as a personal highlight as she was thrilled to receive recognition as an interior designer. “It meant all the hard work on all the projects with my design team had been recognised by the design community. It was an award for us all as a design team.”

Evans is looking forward to a number of categories including projects in hospitality, leisure and entertainment, boutique firm of the year and young interior designer of the year.

“We are just on the edge of a new design vision here in Dubai and we are going to see some unusual projects and new companies this year. It’s an exciting time with [Expo] 2020 announced, and it will bring a lot of modern ideas and a different kind of design philosophy,” she added.

As a judge, Evans is looking for designs that are bold and have creative sensibility. While she recognises the many ways of achieving such designs, she hopes to find a creative combination of how these aesthetics are balanced in the overall design.

Peter Aylett With 25 years of experience integrating technology into buildings, Peter Aylett, technical director, Archimedia, anticipates the residential and young interior designer of the year categories.

“I was honoured to be asked to be a judge this year as it is an acknowledgement that technology in buildings must no longer be considered an ‘extra’ but must be considered an integral part of the original concept and all … I am very much looking forward to examining how this year’s entries have used technology to enhance the projects.”

This will be Aylett’s first time judging at the Commercial Interior Design Awards, but according to him – last year’s winning entries show that “designers in the region are truly world-class and expressing the energy of the region’s progressive outlook.”

Aylett looks forward to the residential projects and Young Interior Designer of the Year most.

He said: “Residential design has to express the personalities of the family living in the property and it is always great to look at different expressions of fusing a space with its users in a home.” While, the Young Interior Designer of the Year award is an “aspirational award for many young designers to strive towards.”

Alfred Johnson Having started Alfred Johnson Design nearly six years ago, Alfred Johnson focuses on biomorphism and its place in the design world.

As a judge, Johnson looks to “contribute to the industry as well as to Commercial Interior Design for being such an integral part of the design community.”

Johnson looks forward to the Interior Design of the Year and the Boutique Firm of the Year categories, although he also finds the retail and residential project categories equally intriguing.

For this year’s entries, Johnson hopes to see “original thought and the use of new materials whilst ensuring the design intent is not conventional but specific to a client’s needs and requirements.” He added that winning entries should illustrate “translation of original concepts to detailing, which create near-perpetual spaces for the client without encroaching on the current design trends.”

Having previously worked at London Design in Dubai, Johnson’s impact on the growing design scene in the Middle East is undeniable. He finds that an awards programme such as Commercial Interior Design Awards creates a sense of community within the industry.

He said: “The design industry does have a lot of talent and the awards programme doesn’t just create an opportunity for our peers to decide on who comes out as winners, it is a wonderful sense of community that allows creative people who truly have an impact on the region to come together as a celebration of talent rather than competition.”

Rachael Brown As co-founder and director of Capsule Arts, Rachael Brown contributes to Dubai’s growing art scene by bringing bespoke art commissions to interior design projects and public areas in the UAE and wider Middle East. She also has a longstanding background in curation, arts programming, artist mentoring as well as an arts education.

“I have followed the awards closely over the years and have been continuously impressed by the calibre of the nominees and also of the other judges. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to see some outstanding interior design and be directly involved this year,” said Brown.

“At Capsule Arts, we work closely with interior designers for our bespoke art consulting projects, so I hope to bring a new perspective to the panel, drawing upon my experience as an art consultant.”

Brown is interested in the leisure and entertainment category. “We’re working on a lot more restaurants at Capsule Arts and it’s here that we have seen some really adventurous and unique concepts that show a highly creative and often quite playful approach to interior design.”

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