Dezeen Magazine

Exterior of Heydar Aliyev Centre, engineered by 2023 London Design Medal winner Hanif Kara

Hanif Kara and Magdalene Odundo among winners of 2023 London Design Medals

AKT II's Hanif Kara has been awarded this year's London Design Medal, with ceramicist Magdalene Odundo, Sound Advice co-founder Pooja Agrawal and social enterprise POOR Collective also recognised for their work.

The four medal winners were announced ahead of next week's London Design Festival and will be honoured in a dedicated awards ceremony on Monday, recognising their contribution to the capital and its design industry.

Portrait of AKT II co-founder Hanif Kara, recipient of 2023 London Design Medal
Hanif Kara (above) is known for projects including the Heydar Aliyev Centre (top)

Described as "the highest accolade bestowed upon an individual who has distinguished themselves within the industry", the London Design Medal was awarded to structural engineer Hanif Kara this year.

Originally from Uganda, Kara co-founded London engineering firm AKT II in 1996 and has since worked on a slew of high-profile projects in the capital, including Herzog & de Meuron's One Park Drive skyscraper and BIG's 2016 Serpentine Pavilion.

Last year saw the former Dezeen Awards judge and current Harvard professor awarded an OBE for his services to architecture, engineering and education as part of the Queen's New Years Honours list.

One Park Drive is among Kara's projects in London. Photo by Lee Mawdsley

"I am so grateful to the jury," Kara said.

"The goal was to do well by designing a non-combustible model of practice, one that doesn't simply light up bright like a star and burn out but goes on to make a wider impact on the field beyond the narrow gaze of our own profession," he added.

"This is why wider peer recognition and awards like this one specifically, matter."

Founders of Poor Collective
POOR Collective was awarded the emerging design medal. Photo by Tobi Sobowale

This year's emerging design medal went to POOR Collective, a London-based social enterprise that works to involve young people in the design of their local community.

Combined with industry-backed mentor and training schemes, the initiative hopes to help aspiring designers from underrepresented background find their footing in the industry.

"Winning the emerging talent medal isn't just a win for us, but a win for the numerous communities we have connected with," said architect Larry Botchway, who runs the collective together with Shawn Adams, Ben Spry and Matt Harvey-Agyemang.

"This award reinforces that there is value in championing young voices and providing opportunities for others."

Kenyan ceramicist Magdalene Odundo will take home the lifetime achievement medal, which rewards "an individual who has made significant and fundamental contributions to the design industry over their career".

Her work, which mixes traditional sub-Saharan and Mexican pottery techniques with her own hand-coiling method, can be found in close to 50 international museums and public collections, including the British Museum and Nairobi's African Heritage House.

Recognised with both an OBE and a DBE, Odundo recently took over the Norman Foster-designed Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich with a solo show.

Kenyan ceramicist Magdalene Odundo in her studio
Magdalene Odundo received a lifetime achievement award. Photo by Alun Callender

London's design innovation medal, which celebrates "entrepreneurship in all its forms", was awarded to Pooja Agrawal for her work as the CEO and co-founder of the social enterprise Public Practice.

The non-profit works with local authorities to improve the built environment and instructs architects on how to do the same, so far placing nearly 300 associates with 78 authorities in London and beyond.

Agrawal also co-founded Sound Advice, an initiative that works to improve racial diversity in the architecture industry, together with former Greater London Authority colleague Joseph Henry.

Portrait of Pooja Agrawal
The design innovation medal went to Pooja Agrawal. Photo by Benoit Grogan-Avignon

This year's London Design Medals were judged by a jury that included many former recipients including Es Devlin, Yinka Ilori and Jay Osgerby.

Returning judges included fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, curator Jane Withers and London Design Festival director Ben Evans.

"The 2023 London Design Medal winners are exemplary individuals and collectives, embodying the spirit of design excellence and its transformative power," Evans said.

"Their work, from pushing the boundaries of architecture to fostering social change, inspires us all."

London Design Festival 2023

London Design Festival takes place from 16 to 24 September 2023. See our London Design Festival guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.