Kristian Vedel Amrik Kalsi 2006 (5 of 7) home | image archive | email | dansk

Pioneer and idealist

[Map over Kenya]

Amongst his many innovative ideas; and to complement theoretical teaching at the Department of Design, he founded the Design Research Unit. The role of the Design Research Unit was to identify and explore technical and socio-economic problems of design in Kenya by means of documentation, study of material culture, forma­tion of policies, development of prototypes and design of experi­men­tal projects. The unit also provided service teaching to other Departments within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Develop­ment. With government efforts only marginally affecting grassroots levels, the western models of development came under severe criticism. It was also a period of national and interna­ti­onal debates on problems of development, and the romance of the interna­ti­onal community with “the real world issues” and appropriate techno­logies. The important challenge for the new designers in Kenya was to find relevance of design to the life of the majority, who would truly appreciate the difference that it could make in their lives. Under his leadership, perhaps, his simplicity and sincerity together with his enormous belief in people, the Design Research Unit initiated a number of research projects in housing, transporta­tion, energy, water, health for rural development.

Kristian traveled regularly to rural areas in Kenya to study, first hand, local cultural values and practices, indigenous knowledge and aesthetics, and find application for projects within the Design Research Unit.

He observed, in rural areas, it was women who bore the greater part of transport burden. He realized that reducing the transport burdens of rural women would release time and en­ergy for more productive and socially beneficial activities.

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