Kounkuey Design Initiative wins Cooper Hewitt National Design Award

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum today announced the 23rd class of National Design Award winners, honored for design innovation and impact in nine categories.

Chelina Odbert. Photo: MinxFilms

Kounkuey Design Initiative won the 2022 National Design Award – Landscape Architecture. Kounkuey Design Initiative is an interdisciplinary practice committed to building a more just public realm: one that is complete, inclusive, and resilient. Rooted in landscape architecture, KDI works across urban planning, policy, research, architecture, and civil engineering to expand equity and inclusivity in places that have long been overlooked or actively harmed by traditional design and planning approaches. Founded in 2006 by six then-students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, KDI has grown into a sixty-person team led by Chelina Odbert, working from four offices: Los Angeles, Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm. 

Kounkuey Design Initiative, Kibera Public Space Project. This ongoing initiative introduces new public spaces in the informal settlement of Kibera, which are each linked with needed community programs, including schools, greenhouses, health services, communication infrastructure, and stormwater management (Nairobi, Kenya, 2006–ongoing). Photo: Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative
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Kounkuey Design Initiative, Eastern Coachella Valley Initiative. The Eastern Coachella Valley is a landscape that faces environmental risk and extreme inequity, and this initiative uses landscape architecture to address immediate and long-term needs, including access to public space, mobility, housing, and environmental remediation (Coachella, California, 2011–ongoing). Photo: Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative
Kounkuey Design Initiative, Low Rise. This project developed a sustainable new model of low-rise, multi-unit housing that accounts for the needs of low-income and unhoused neighbors (Los Angeles, California, 2021). Photo: Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative

Other winners included

  • Nader Tehrani, Design Visionary
  • WEDEW by David Hertz, Climate Action
  • Emily Adams Bode, Emerging Designer
  • Rural Studio, Architecture / Interior Design
  • Giorgia Lupi, Communication Design
  • Felecia Davis, Digital Design
  • Willy Chavarria, Fashion Design
  • CW&T, Product Design

“This year’s National Design Award winners reflect the central role that design can play in addressing some of the most urgent needs of our time,” said Maria Nicanor, director of the museum. “Attuned to increasing social and planetary challenges, all awardees, regardless of their category, have a regenerative approach to design work that takes into account our shared future. I’m grateful to our thoughtful jury this year for their selection. Their deliberations revealed that behind each winner is a philosophy of work that expertly weaves together technological innovation while elevating traditional craft, or that prioritizes preservation and reparation processes, ultimately designing for citizens, and not consumers—a reason for hope in today’s complex world if there ever was one.”

The 2022 National Design Awards jury was chaired by Marlon Blackwell, principal, Marlon Blackwell Architects. The jury included Cheryl Barton, founding principal, STUDIO/CB; Travis Fitch, principal, Fitchwork; Rick Griffith, partner and graphic designer, MATTER; Christina Kim, designer, dosa; Susana Rodríguez de Tembleque, vice president of design, IBM Research, IBM; and Raja Schaar, program director and associate professor of product design, Drexel University.

Established in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards bring national recognition to the ways in which design enriches everyday life. In celebration of this year’s National Design Awards, Cooper Hewitt will offer free admission to museum visitors during National Design Week, Oct. 17–23, to make design accessible to all.

Find out more about the awards at https://www.cooperhewitt.org/national-design-awards/2022-national-design-award-winners/

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About Damian Holmes 5564 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/