BellTower was founded in Kenya in 2014 by designers John Brian Kamau, Joyce Wairimu Gachiri, Ian Githegi Kamau, Esther Wanjiku Kamau and Arvin Booker Kamau.
The studio has been revealed as the winner of the 2020 Lexus Design Award for its design project that could help emerging nations provide their citizens with clean water. This is the first time an African designer win the Lexus Design Award in its eight-year history. BellTower winning project, named Open Source Communities, is an affordable structure developed for collecting and storing rainwater for safe drinking. It has been designed specifically for use in developing countries with the aim of helping these nations establish more sustainable communities.
This year’s panel of judges, which included Paola Antonelli, Jeanne Gang, John Maeda, and Simon Humphries, based their criteria on the finalists’ efforts to “anticipate, innovate and captivate in the quest for a better tomorrow”.
The winning project is a real systems of finance for community projects and engages the critical role clean drinking water plays in citizens’ ability to thrive. “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” – explained Jeanne Gang
This year the Lexus Design Award‘s Grand Prix received over 2000 submissions from 79 different countries. The finalists were announced in January 2020. Prior to the judging, the six shortlisted designers were flown to New York to participate in a two-day workshop with Lexus at its creative culture space, INTERSECT BY LEXUS – NYC. Here, they developed their designs through hands-on sessions with well-known designers including Joe Doucet, Bethan Gray, Philippe Malouin, and Shohei Shigematsu, who acted as mentors to help create prototypes of their designs. After the mentoring session, each finalist received ongoing access to a mentor via one-on-one online sessions as they continued to develop their prototypes.