Meet the London Design Medals 2023 winners, showcasing ‘creativity and innovation that shapes our world’

The London Design Medals 2023 are awarded to engineer Hanif Kara, architect Pooja Agrawal, social enterprise POoR Collective and artist Magdalene Odundo

London Design Medals 2023: winner Magdalene Odundo in her studio
Lifetime Achievement Medal winner, Magdalene Odundo, in her studio
(Image credit: Alun Callender)

The winners of the London Design Medals 2023 have been announced as the London Design Festival prepares to kick off for its latest edition (16-24 September), with Hanif Kara OBE, Pooja Agrawal, POoR Collective and Magdalene Odundo DBE awarded the annual design accolade. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges including festival founder and director Ben Evans, Yinka Ilori, Pentagram's Domenic Lippa, Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas, Ozwald Boateng, Es Devlin, Justine Simons, and Jane Withers among others.

‘Each year, the London Design Festival celebrates the creativity and innovation that shapes our world,’ comments Evans. ‘The 2023 London Design Medal winners are exemplary individuals and collectives, embodying the spirit of design excellence and its transformative power. Their work, from pushing the boundaries of architecture to fostering social change, inspires us all.’ 


London Design Medal – Hanif Kara OBE

London Design Medal 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

Hanif Kara is the design director and co-founder of engineering practice and B Corp AKT II. Born in Bombo, Uganda, Kara was Inspired by his father’s work in a construction company, and later he developed an interest in building and a desire to explore how the built environment can improve lives. Having moved to the UK in the 1970s as a refugee, he eventually studied engineering at the University of Salford before working on heavy engineering schemes. 

London Design Medals 2023 winners

Peckham Library

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

Kara’s work has focused on expanding his engineering practice to explore new materials, sustainable construction and complex analysis methods that he applies to innovative approaches to the issues facing the built environment. Among AKT II’s projects is the UK Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010, London’s Bloomberg European HQ and the upcoming Museum of London, set to take over an abandoned Smithfield Market site. 

London Design Medal Winner AKT II

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

London Design Medal winner AKT II

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

‘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 says. ‘This is why wider peer recognition, and awards like this one specifically, matter. I am so grateful to the jury.

'You encounter Hanif's work regularly, without realising it,' says Evans. 'Some of the magnificent buildings we've admired in the last couple of decades would not have been possible without his imagination and skill. He is famously known for collaborating with Zaha Hadid on some of her most iconic projects and has been the brains behind Grafton Architects’ work. That alone is a legacy we have to celebrate.’

Design Innovation Medal – Pooja Agrawal

London Design Medal 2023

(Image credit: Benoît Grogan-Avignon)

Mumbai-born architect Pooja Agrawal is the co-founder and CEO of the not-for-profit company Public Practice, collaborating with local authorities to improve the built environment to help solve society’s most complex challenges. The aim of the initiative (which functions as a social enterprise) is to connect professionals with forward-thinking councils: to date, Public Practice has placed 296 associates into 78 authorities across the UK. 

Agrawal also co-founded Sound Advice, a platform created to improve diversity and representation in architecture, and created a handbook for her former employer, Greater London Authority, to support diversity and inclusion in the built environment sector. 

open booklet

A spread from 'Now You Know: a collection of sound advice to challenge spatial and racial inequality from 60 architects and urbanists'

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

'Cities are organisms, they're always evolving and changing,' she says. 'You don't want to pause a city, change is a positive thing. The worry is when change is causing consequences of extreme inequality. I hope London continues to be a very vibrant, diverse place where everyone has the right to own parts of the city.

'I am delighted to have won the award for design innovation. This is a great example of public sector innovation and it is fantastic to see Public Practice being recognised as a design that has positively impacted London. As a framework, it enables passionate and socially led designers and architects to make meaningful changes within local authorities. We emerged out of London but continue to design and scale the organisation to ensure we can spread its impact across the country.'

Emerging Design Medal – POoR Collective

London Design Medal 2023

From left: Shawn Adams, Larry Botchway, Ben Spry and Matt Harvey-Agyemang

(Image credit: Tobi Sobowale)

POoR Collective (Power out of Restriction) is a London-based social enterprise, launched in 2019 by architects Shawn Adams, Larry Botchway and Ben Spry with accountant Matt Harvey-Agyemang. POoR collective acts as a facilitator dedicated to the development of communities within the built environment with the goal of driving positive social change. 

London Design Medals 2023 winners

An installation in Regent’s Park titled ‘Bringing Home to the Unknown’, by POoR Collective in collaboration with students from Mayesbrook Park School, an alternative provision school in Becontree

(Image credit: Luke O'Donovan)

The collective’s initiatives span from community-led projects involving local youth in local planning, representing under-represented communities, working with schools, community groups and councils to foster and inspire the next generation of designers. 

wooden furniture

Furniture for TOG's The Black & White Building, the result of the  Makers & Mentors programme led by POoR collective to nurture the next generation of creative talent

(Image credit: Ian Tillotson)

‘Our design approach allows us to act as a conduit for young people,’ says Botchway. ‘Therefore, winning the Emerging Talent Medal isn't just a win for us, but a win for the numerous communities we have connected with. This award reinforces that there is value in championing young voices and providing opportunities for others.’

Lifetime Achievement Medal – Magdalene Odundo DBE 

London Design Medal 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

‘I have always been curious to discover why human beings make and surround themselves with objects that are not just utilitarian, but also give pleasure, have spiritual significance, and tell the stories of the people who made the objects,’ says ceramic artist Magdalene Odundo. Born in Nairobi in 1950, after education in Kenya and India, she studied ceramics, printmaking and photography at West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham. 

Working predominantly in ceramics, in her work she references a variety of craft traditions, from Mexican pottery and Greek Cycladic sculpture to sub-Saharan ceramics. Her work is characterised by great depth of colour, achieved through the use of multiple oxidised firings at high temperature. Her work is part of the collections of nearly 50 international institutions and museums, including African Heritage, Nairobi, The Art Institute of Chicago and the British Museum, London.


(Image credit: Courtesy London Design Festival)

‘What makes Odundo so exceptional is that she has infused her command of her craft with a sophisticated understanding of the constantly changing politics of cultural identity,’ says jury member Alice Rawsthorn. 

The stellar quartet represents London's creative community and demonstrates how design practitioners can push the boundaries of creativity to improve lives. 'For me this year's London Design Medal list is especially strong and topical,' says Jane Withers. 'The winners reflect so many different aspects of design and really touch on current debates – social design, the power of the collective, crafts traditions and making, policy, engineering and innovation. It illustrates the extraordinary breadth of design practice and how young designers in particular are really engaging with shaping our world for the better.'

Concludes Evans: 'This year the diversity of disciplines is as strong as the diversity of the winners. It's the first time we've celebrated an engineer, the often unsung heroes of architecture and design. It's also the first time we've recognised a ceramicist, a public sector innovator, and a collective. This illustrates the reach of design and how the London Design Medals continue to grow and evolve.'

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.