Kristian Vedel Amrik Kalsi 2006 (2 of 7) home | image archive | email | dansk

Pioneer and idealist

[Map over Kenya]

After independence, the main focus of the country was on development and raising the standards of living of the majority of the population. The inherited, colonial model of design and art education was neither suitable nor relevant to the development challenges of a newly independent Kenya. Moreover, there was no understanding that design could be used for development, hence no mention of it in the development policies of Kenya.

It was under such a background, Kristian Vedel was seconded by DANIDA, and appointed Head and Professor, to organize Department of Design at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Development, University of Nairobi. The vision of the University was to educate and train designers, to serve the development challenges of newly independent Kenya. This was quite a challenge for Kristian. His vision of the role of design in the development of the country found expression in his devotion to his work at the Department of Design and Design Research Unit from the summer of 1968 to 1971.

His immediate and important challenge was to find relevance of design to the lives of vast majority of Kenyans, who would not only benefit from design help, but will truly appreciate the difference that it could make in their lives. He saw this as an opportunity to deve­lop a more country-specific design approach. In his theory lectur­es, Kristian always emphasized, that the new designers have to cross their normal professional boundaries, as well as the barriers of social class and language to work at grassroots level. Some of these grassroots priorities were income generation, shelter, health, transportation, energy for rural development.

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