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Meet the Surface Design Awards Judges

Exteriors Panel, Co-Chair

Nimi Attanayake

Director and Co-Founder of NimTim Architects


Nimi is director and co founder of nimtim architects, starting the practice in 2014 alongside Tim. Nimi brings energy, positivity and sense of adventure to everything she does. She has been appointed as an External Examiner for Manchester University, a judge for both Surface Design Awards and British Homes Awards and is on the steering group for RIBA Guerrilla Tactics conference.  

Nimi is a qualified garden and landscape designer and leads our nimtim landscapes department. A UK qualified architect since 2008, she has worked for some of London’s most highly regarded practices including Penoyre & Prasad and Hawkins/ Brown where she was a project architect for Corby Cube and other significant developments such as Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping. 

Nimi has helped lead nimtim architects to become one of the most recognised and celebrated young architecture practices in the UK. Nimtim have been named as part of the Architecture Foundations ‘new architects 4’, *Wallpaper’s ‘20 practices to watch in 2020’ and one of The Architect’s Journal’s ‘40 under 40’. Most recently nimtim have won places on two lots as part of the London Mayor’s Architecture and Urbanism (A+U) framework. 

Nimi is a member of the Design South East Panel and Frame Design Review Panel for a number of London Boroughs. These multi-disciplinary panels of leading construction professionals provides a clear, constructive and consistent voice on design quality in the built environment for Local Authorities and across SE England. 

Interiors Panel, Co-Chair 

Charlotte McCarthy
Head of Interiors, Heatherwick StudioCharlotte McCarthy

Charlotte is an experienced interior architect who creates exceptional, human centred spaces across a range of typologies. She joined Heatherwick Studio in 2018 and works across a range of significant international, interior architectural projects. Charlotte is a skilled collaborator and has worked across various design disciplines including architecture, interiors, installations and products. Through research and working closely with manufacturers she experiments with materials, colour and pattern to create playful and innovative spaces. Following six years working for Tom Dixon and Universal Design Studio, Charlotte set up her own company, LOT Studio, in 2015 specialising in architecture, interiors and custom furniture design. 

Education and Qualifications: Merit, Postgraduate Diploma in Architecture, University of Westminster, UK, Distinction, Diploma in Architecture, University of Westminster, UK, BA Architecture, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Carly Sweeney


Universal Design Studio

Carly is a Director at Universal Design Studio, with an expertise that lies in creating a seamless connection between architecture and interiors, consistently delivering technically challenging and beautifully crafted spaces. Notable projects include the immersive ‘On Repeat’ and ‘Framework for Exchange’ pavilions for London Design Festival in 2017 and 2018 as well as a luxury health club for Third Space London whilst also leading projects for clients including British Airways, British Land and KaDeWe in Berlin. Carly has been at the forefront of many Universal workplace projects, developing the initial narrative and strategies, then working alongside multi-disciplinary teams to deliver highly contextual, compelling, and distinct spaces that bridge the gap between workplace and hospitality. Recent projects include collaborations with award-winning architects on a series of high profile developments, including 100 Liverpool Street with Hopkins Architects and Paddington Square with Renzo Piano/ RPBW. 

Christopher Laing


Haworth Tompkins Studio

Chris Laing is an Architectural Designer, Activist, Consultant, Founder Of Signstrokes and Deaf Architecture Front. He is keen to facilitate engagement between the Deaf community and the spatial and architecture practice industry - hoping to see greater opportunities for the field of architecture to benefit from Deaf peoples’ perspective in the near future. 
He has been working at Haworth Tompkins since 2017 as a Part 1 and a Part 2 Architectural Assistant. Chris studied Architecture at Kingston University and Interior Architecture and Design at UCA. He completed his MA at the Royal College of Art for his Part 2, where he was nominated for the Spatial Justice Award for his Thesis Project in 2021. His research interests include Deaf Space and how to build bridges between Deafness and Architecture. 

Kangan Arora


Kangan Arora

Kangan Arora is a London-based designer primarily working with colour and print - often, but not exclusively, in textiles. Her work centres around geometry, abstraction, pattern application and exploring the Indian visual vernacular. With a strong focus on the language of colour and print processes, this manifests itself as soft furnishings, rugs, tapestries, stationery, packaging and more. She has collaborated on projects with the likes of TATE, IKEA, Heal's and Floor_Story across a range of products. 

Kangan trained at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design where she is currently a Lecturer in Textile Design. 

Sofia Steffenoni


Materials Assemble

Sofia is an architect with 15 years of expertise in bespoke manufacturing and material consultancy for prestigious projects across Europe and the US, including museums, fashion houses, and large-scale architectural ventures. Hailing from Venice and based in London, Sofia co-founded Matter of Stuff in 2014, creating one of the world's largest online material libraries, delivering bespoke manufacturing projects, and championing sustainable design practices. Her architecture training at The University of Ferrara in 2008 earned her a prestigious nomination at Archiprix Italy 2010, and she has since delivered award-winning projects with top architectural firms such as Acme, 3xn, Foreign Office Architects, and Squire and Partners. As the leader of Materials Assembly, Sofia continues to empower designers and architects to push the boundaries of sustainability in material design. Additionally, she contributes her expertise as a lecturer at esteemed institutions like Istituto Marangoni and Westminster University, shaping the future of responsible design. 

Lanre Gbolade


Gbolade Design Studio

Lanre Gbolade is an architect and Co-founder of Gbolade Design Studio, an award-winning architecture and sustainable design practice based in London. 

He is a forward thinking professional with expertise in Design for Manufacture and Assembly methods, sustainable and regenerative design.  With a passion for leading multi-disciplinary design teams using collaborative working methodologies, his focus lies in transforming building design and delivery through integration of sustainable, regenerative practices and innovative construction processes. 

He sits on the Design South East and Oxford Design Review panels and engages with a number of industry bodies, to promote exemplary design quality, capacity building and industry collaboration. He is a Board Director at Build Studios & Naked House, and a Part 3 Examiner at Newcastle University. In 2017 he was elected to the RIBA Council and was a member of the Practice and Profession Committee; delivering numerous outputs including the revised DfMA Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work and Building in Quality Report. He was recently awarded Offsite Pioneer of the Year by Offsite Awards 2022. 

Maria-Elena Patru (Milena)


Hill Patru

Milena is a director at Hill Patru, an architectural practice which she has founded together with Adrian Hill in 2020. The practice works on small commercial and residential design as well as on housing with a research focus on intergenerational living. 

She grew up in Transylvania and studied at the ‘Ion Mincu’ University of Architecture in Bucharest, ‘La Sapienza’ in Rome and then at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. 

Milena is a lecturer at the University of Innsbruck where she leads a design studio.

Gillian Lambert



Gill joined AOC in 2008, and since then has been responsible for the delivery a range of cultural institutions, exhibitions, and homes.  Most recently Gill lead the full reimagining of the visitor experience and design of permanent galleries for the Young V&A which opened in July 2023. Recent awards for her work include the NLA ‘Unique Character Prize’ in 2022 for Forest House, a refurbished home in Waltham Forest, and ‘Studio House’ a new build home in Hampstead which has been shortlisted for the AJ House of the Year / Manser Medal 2023. Gill has run a MArch studio at the University of Westminster since 2013, she teaches at the London School of Architecture, and is a member of the RIIBA Validation Panel.  


Gurmeet Sian


Office Sian

Gurmeet Sian is an Architect the founder of Office Sian Architecture + Design. He has over 10 year’s experience of working as an architect designing homes and community buildings. Gurmeet’s work has been recognised in local and national awards, and the studio has recently been included in the Architecture Foundations ‘New Architects 4’ book, a major publication showcasing the best studios working in the UK. He is passionate about collaborating with communities to understand how places can be improved through the built environment and design, and to benefit the well-being of people from all backgrounds of society.

Since establishing his studio in London, he not only designs and delivers built projects, but also facilitates workshops with young people interested in their environment, art, design, and architecture. The co-design of places is something that Gurmeet hold central to all projects.

Gurmeet is Chair of the London Borough of Southwark Community Design Review Panel, is a Design Review Panel member at the London Borough of Redbridge, Camden and Harrow, and is a Design Council Expert. He is a winner of the RIBA London Project Architect of the Year award.



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