CID Awards 2017

CID AWARDS 2017: Meet the judges

Taking place on 13 September 2017 in the Joharah Ballroom at the Madinat Jumeriah, the 11th edition of the Commercial Interior Design Awards is just around the corner. With just over two months to go until the winners of the CID Awards are announced, it’s time to introduce this year’s judging panel.

Ensuring a balanced and independent approach, all of our judges are selected based on their experience and qualifications. The judges are all highly respected experts in their fields from across the private and public sectors and will provide unique perspectives from various angles in the design industry. We have an eclectic mix of individuals from different parts of the industry, all of whom will focus their expertise on the projects submitted for the awards.

Our panel of judges includes: Fouad Mirza, principal and design director at Tawazun Interior Design; Juan Roldan, assistant professor at the College of Architecture, Art & Design at the American University of Sharjah; Kristin Lee, associate professor of interior design and interim chair of the Interior Design Department at the American University of Dubai; Laura Bielecki, senior interior design manager at Ellington; Linsey Thomson, interior design assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus; Lotfi Sidirahal, managing partner and founder of Atelier PodMaliha Nishat, former design director at dwpMelani Sabhaney, partner and design director at Interspace; Patrick Bean, director of interior design at Lacasa, and Veena Kanchan, interior architect an founder of VS Design Studio.

In the following weeks, the judging panel will come together to go through shortlisted submissions and decide winners in 17 categories for individuals and projects that push the boundaries beyond ordinary. We asked some of our judges what they’re most looking forward to (see p60).

The Commercial Interior Design editorial team would like to thank everyone who has entered this year’s awards.

We wish you all the best, and if you would like to enquire about booking a table, please contact and for sponsorship opportunities.

Fouad Mirza, Tawazun Interior Design

Founder and design director of Abu Dhabi-based Tawazun Interior Design, Fouad Mirza was born in Yemen, grew up in Cairo and studied in Los Angeles and Paris. With over two decades of experience, Mirza has established a reputation as a renowned interior designer achieving substantial and global success working with both regional and international clients. With successes mounting with every project, Mirza and Tawazun have emerged as a sought-after design firm for complex, high-end projects in the public and private sectors. Specialising in corporate, commercial and residential, some of Mirza’s projects include offices for International Petroleum Investment Company, Abu Dhabi Housing Authority and the ADNEC Chairwoman’s Office.

“For this year CID Awards, my focus will be towards innovations, fresh and environmentally conscious projects and how newly developed technology has been integrated into the design. I am looking forward to recognising the best of what this region has to offer in terms of design,” says Mirza.

Juan Roldan, AUS

Juan Roldán (MArch) is a Spanish architect and designer, currently teaching at the American University of Sharjah as assistant professor of interior design. Roldán studied at the Madrid Architecture Technical School and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.

As an educator, he has been a guest lecturer at the Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and is a faculty member of the Master of Interior Design programme of the Salamanca University (Spain) since 2011.

Until 2013 he worked as a founding member of the architecture and interior design office arrero&Roldán, specialised in retail spaces, product and graphic design. As a freelancer, he has collaborated with renowned international architects like Fernando Menis, and was involved in the art direction team of the Spanish Pavilion at the Architecture Venice Biennale 2012.

He comments: “I am thrilled to take part in this unique opportunity for the creation of excellence, creativity, craft, sustainability and high intellectual standards that are allowing a solid base for the flourishing of a genuine object and interior design landscape.”

Kristin Lee, AUD

Throughout her career Kristin Lee has worked on numerous projects in the US and Dubai, ranging from senior living to health care to large scale residential before joining the American University of Dubai as associate professor of interior design and recently as an interim chair of the Interior Design Department.

“How space impacts those who inhabit it is why I love design, and by teaching at the American University in Dubai, I get to share that. There are a lot of misconceptions about what interior designers do; in my day-to-day life I have the opportunity to change that,” says Lee.

This is Lee’s first year involved as a judge; most often her contact is with alumni who are working in many of the region’s award-winning firms.

“Dubai moves forward at a dizzying pace; so, too, has the growth of the interior design industry here,” says Lee, adding that events such as the CID Awards are vital to that growth. “It is important that the industry takes time to recognise excellence as part of our community.

“I love the range of ideas and the risk-taking that are represented in the CID Awards, and see them as part of the DNA of the region, to continually push the envelope.”

Laura Bielecki, Ellington

Laura Bielecki is back on board judging this year’s CID Awards. As a professional interior designer, Bielecki worked for internationally renowned design firms Escobar Design, Kasian and Godwin Austen Johnson before joining Ellington Properties in Dubai as its senior design manager.

Having graduated with a bachelor’s of Applied Interior Design from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada in 2006, she went on to complete her LEED accreditation for green building. She has extensive experience with high-rise residential projects in New York and Montreal, office and government design/project management experience in Western Alberta and residential, hospitality and education experience in the GCC.

Bielecki comments: “I am so fortunate to take part in this judging panel. It is inspiring to have an inside peek at the changing trends, direction and growth of our local industry. The ebb and flow of the Middle East’s design scene portray movement, ideas, new concepts and one-of-a-kind projects that are fascinating to observe and take part in. I share a passion with my colleagues for inspiring and empowering fresh talent in the region, and look forward to seeing young designers express their work.”

Linsey Thomson, Heriot-Watt University

Following a decade of being based in the UAE, Linsey Thomson has a 50/50 split of industry versus academia experience across the commercial design GCC sector. She was appointed in 2011 at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus to the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society Department for the Interior Design programme as a part-time teaching fellow. In January 2012, she joined the team full-time and currently teaches across the range of interior design and architectural courses. Having moved to Dubai in 2006 from her native Scotland, Thomson successfully worked on a diverse mix of commercial, high-rise residential and hospitality projects during her career at RMJM where she held the position of senior interior designer until 2010.

“I follow the submissions closely each year and it is always interesting to review what each consultant produces year on year, in comparison with their previous nominations, and of course, what projects breaks the mould to win. Every judge has a strong view on each nomination, so I shall enjoy listening and participating in the dynamic exchange between the judges to establish the highest scoring project per category of 2017,” says Thomson.

Lotfi Sidirahal, Atelier Pod

Lotfi Sidirahal is the founder of Atelier Pod, an international architecture and interior design studio founded in Paris in 1999, with branches today in Dubai and Casablanca.

Sidirahal belongs to an exclusive elite of designers often called upon to design luxury branded hotels and resorts across the globe.

His interest in luxury brand design led him to become the co-owner of “Nebka” the Paris-based design firm specialising in high-end luxury, frequently collaborating with Kenzo, Armani, Clarins, Guerlain, and more.

Sidirahal is today sought after by prestigious operators such as Accor, Four Seasons, Carlson Rezidor, Anantara, Hilton and Fairmont.

This year, Sidirahal received two awards at the World Architecture Hotel and Restaurant Awards at UNESCO in Paris for the Anantara Jabal Akhdar in Oman and Villa Gapi in Casablanca.

“The CID Awards are for me the best demonstration that the region has undeniably become an important centre of creativity in the design world.

“I expect this year’s edition to see more surprising and innovative projects that have taken up the challenge of positioning the region at the design avant-garde,” says Sidirahal.

Maliha Nishat, director of interior design at Marriott

With 18 years of experience within the industry, Maliha Nishat brings passion and sound knowledge of design focused on hospitality and F&B. Nishat has recently joined Marriott’s Global Design team as its new director of interior design to overlook projects for the MEA region from concept to completion. Formerly working for design worldwide partnership (dwp) in Dubai and Hirsch Bedner Associates in Melbourne, Nishat has extensive experience in hospitality design and with high-rise residential projects. With her previous work at dwp, Maliha went on to win Best Interior Designer of the Year 2015 at the CID Awards.

“The industry has been pushing the bar higher every year and this year I am excited to see some high-quality built work in all sectors including hospitality, F&B, corporate, residential and community. Among some of the past years’ regulars, I hope to see new designers and the emergence of young talent and firms contributing to the design eco system and bringing with them an abundance of new ideas and approaches in our region,” says Nishat.

Melani Sabhaney, Interspace

Melani Sabhaney brings with her 24 years of expertise as a design consultant. She started her career in Bangalore, India and worked with reputed builders and companies. After moving to Dubai 15 years ago, Sabhaney worked with renowned consultants such as NEB and DesignTeam UK until 2005 when she started her own practice, Interspace, along with her business partner, Paul Ninan. The 12-year-old firm has worked with high profile clientele in hospitality and retail across the GCC, India and the Far East.

“CID Awards are encouraging new thought and reinforcing achievement. It is not just about acknowledging success, but also recognising ability, effort and above all excellence. And giving this kind of visibility and validation is especially important for smaller firms,” says Sabhaney.

Patrick Bean, Lacasa

With a Master’s in interior design from Manchester University and more than 22 years of hospitality design experience, Patrick Bean boasts an extensive and diverse portfolio. As the director of interior design at Lacasa, Beans aims to achieve a balance of design, aesthetic and function while fully expressing his clients’ vision.

His experience spans diverse markets including MENA, Asia, and Europe, having worked on the Address Hotel on the Boulevard, the Radisson in Liuzhou, China, and the Marriott in Minsk.

“I’m hoping to see designers getting away from what has become a cliché in our region and stretching the creativity and thinking of our design community when it comes to materials and finishes,” says Bean.
As a judge, he will be looking to elevate the innovative designs that were developed with passion and tell a story.

Veena Kanchan, VS Design Studio

Though an architect by profession, interior design is Veena Kanchan’s strength and passion. Previously working at GAJ, Kanchan founded Dubai-based VS Design Studio and since then has worked in collaboration with many international design companies based in Dubai and the UK. As the lead interior designer appointed by Stride Treglown, Kanchan was part of the design team behind the award-winning Rove Downtown Dubai hotel.

“Design, in this region, has been reaching out to new boundaries, especially with the influx of technology, social media and art forms. As I rejuvenate my own design senses, I will also look forward to projects that respond to this influx and yet maintain its context to the region they belong,”.