The Grand Prix winner of the eighth Lexus Design Award has been won by the BellTower design group from Kenya. Its design concept, Open Source Communities, was selected from more than 2,000 entries received from 79 countries worldwide.
BellTower’s winning design addresses challenges often found in developing countries by using smart, open-source planning to design affordable communities with sustainable clean water resources. It was an idea that the judges felt best encapsulated the three key principles of the Lexus brand: anticipate, innovate and captivate.
Due to the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lexus hosted a virtual judging process. Each of the six international finalists presented their idea and explained how it would help create a better tomorrow, after which the judges were able to deliberate and then announce the Grand Prix winner.
Announcing the panel’s decision, Lexus Design Award judge Jeanne Gang said: “At different moments in time, design has celebrated bold aesthetics, extreme functionality, and even humour. But today, with our world plagued by the enormous issues of climate change and social inequality, there is a design imperative for systemic design solutions.
BellTower design group consists of John Brian Kamau (not pictured) together with (from left to right) Joyce Wairimu Gachiri, Ian Githegi Kamau, Esther Wanjiku Kamau and Arvin Booker Kamau
“The Grand Prix winner expands our definition of design to include systems of finance for community projects and engages the critical role drinking water plays in citizens’ ability to thrive. By addressing the way that the project will come into being and be sustained economically, the designers broaden our thinking about what design is and could be. While the project is an apparatus to collect and store rainwater for safe drinking, it is also a financial game plan for empowering a community.”
Accepting the award on behalf of BellTower, John Brian Kamau (below) commented: “It was a great honour for us to be one of the six finalists and then win the Grand Prix in the 2020 Lexus Design Award. Our journey began with many challenges. However, we persevered to showcase our ambitious concept.
“Our experience has taught us invaluable lessons. All our future designs will be aligned with the key principles we learned as part of the Lexus family.”
Lexus Design Award: the trophy
The Lexus Design Award trophy (see image above) was designed by 2013 winner Hideki Yoshimoto. Explaining his thinking behind a design that will symbolise the award for years to come, Yoshimoto commented: “I tried to create a simple, dignified form, free of affectation, in a design where boldness and subtlety coexist. Artisans carve the trophy from smoke-seasoned wood and lacquer it in the Japanese tradition. Handcrafting each trophy imbues it with heart and soul to resonate with the winner’s creative passion.”