Parts of the pilot group of the Design Networking Hub at the KICC
Parts of the pilot group at the KICC (from left to right): George Wekesa, Hannah Weirich, Philip Kohlbecher, William Otuke, Madita Morgenstern-Antao, Timm Donke, Marvin Kasper, Stephanie Nyairo (participants Julita Bhagat Afande and Betty Mwema are not present). Photo: Kenneth Kinoti

After a summer full of virtual events, the Design Networking Hub becomes a physical experience for all participants for the first time. An initial workshop at the Get Together in Nairobi produces a portfolio of first ideas and concepts.

By Jan Hellstern.

Philip Kohlbecher and William Otuke
Philip Kohlbecher (l.), William Otuke (r.). Photo: Kenneth Kinoti

One workshop leader, ten participants and two continents – these were the main actors in the kick-off meeting of the pilot group of the Design Networking Hub in Nairobi. The excitement and anticipation of this first face-to-face meeting were immense, because interpersonal levels can only be developed to a limited extent via digital channels.

Intercultural communication is especially successful when the people behind the projects know each other’s professional strengths and weaknesses as well as their character traits. If the potential of each individual can be fully developed, the potential of the group automatically increases as well.

Following this approach, the Kenyan designer and lecturer at the Buru Buru Institute of Fine Art, Michael Muiya, prepared a workshop for the international group in his role as a member and organiser of the Design Kenya Society, which is a cooperation partner of the project.

In addition to an initial scanning of interests, synergies and sympathies, Muiya would present the participants of the working group with concrete challenges on the topics of mobility, housing and digitalisation, for which they were to develop initial approaches in the following.

Day one of the bilateral meeting, however, was initially dedicated to friendship and the host country. Led by the Kenyan participants, the German designers experienced an exciting excursion through one of the most fascinating metropolises in Africa. In addition to the ever-pulsating rhythm of Nairobi and the omnipresent friendliness of the people there, the German participants were also able to gain their first impressions of a country whose structure and vitality could soon be the basis for concrete project ideas.

George Wekesa and Hannah Weirich
George Wekesa (l.), Hannah Weirich (r.). Photo: Kenneth Kinoti

With this in mind, the German Design Museum Foundation hosted an international networking event on the second evening. Not only delegates from the German Embassies in Kenya, Somalia and the Seychelles were present, but also numerous representatives from the Kenyan design and architecture scene, the University of Nairobi, the Design Kenya Society and the Goethe-Institut Kenya.

A meeting whose atmosphere was characterised by friendship, circumspection and mutual curiosity and pointed to a promising togetherness. Indeed, the differences in culture and origin of the participants seemed to matter far less than their shared view of our world and its challenges regarding a sustainable and progressive future.

This agile mood continued into the next morning. “From the beginning, there was a great hunger for intercultural exchange,” Michael Muiya recalls.


LIVING

Madita Morgenstern-Antao and Julita Bhagat Afande
Madita Morgenstern-Antao (l.), Julita Bhagat Afande (r.). Photo: Kenneth Kinoti

In Team LIVING, the Kenyan communication designer Julita Afande, the architect William Otuke and the service designer Betty Mwema met the product designer Hanna Weirich from Offenbach. They dealt with one of the consequences of the covid pandemic: How can the increasing office vacancies resulting from work in the home office be used sensibly in the future?

DIGITALISATION

The DIGITALISATION working group, consisting of the Kenyan product designer Stephanie Nyairo and the German product designers Madita Morgenstern-Antao and Philip Kohlbecher, simultaneously dealt with the question of how digitality and technologies could support our future living systems.

MOBILITY

Urban planning is certainly one of the most exciting crossover fields between architecture and design. The task of the MOBILITY group with the Kenyan architect George Wekesa and the German product designers Marvin Kasper and Timm Donke revolved around this topic:

What do pedestrians need in terms of urban planning changes in order to move safely through an increasing chaos of traffic and mobility? What means could be used to promote walking within cities as a healthy and sustainable alternative to mechanical locomotion?


The project managers of the Design Networking Hub
f.l.t.r.: Prof. Lilac Osanjo (School of Art and Design, University of Nairobi), Julia Kostial (Management German Design Museum Foundation), Linda Robens (Project Manager Design Networking Hub), Akinyi Odongo (Chairwoman Kenya Fashion Council)

“Of course we are all very excited about the first approaches of the three teams,” says Julia Kostial from the German Design Museum Foundation. “Since the groups don’t have any concrete clients, they have to identify and solve challenges themselves. We have some very exciting weeks ahead of us. So far, we can definitely say that we have created a very heterogeneous but harmonious group here, which, precisely because of the combination of their different skills, gives us hope for great things.”

With each passing day, the projects continue to grow, become more concrete and arouse lasting curiosity about what is being created. Accordingly, one can hope with anticipation for an update soon, in which the pilot group of the Design Networking Hub will reveal a little more about their projects and ideas.

The participants of the Networking Event in Nairobi

The participants of the Design Networking Hubs in Nairobi
Back row (f.l.t.r.): George Adulu (The Housing Guy / Elkis Communication), Michael Muiya (Design Kenya Society), pilot group members George Wekesa, Timm Donke and Marvin Kasper, Stephen Nderitu (Karakana Initiative), Frederick Buoga (Trade and Fair East Africa), Julia Kostial (German Design Museum Foundation ), Javins Odero, Samson Malaki (Design Kenya Society), pilot group member Philip Kohlbecher.
Front row (f.l.t.r.): Ursula Koos (German Embassy in Kenya), Susanne Gerhard (Goethe-Institut Nairobi), pilot group members Hannah Weirich and William Otuke, Japheth Mieti, Jackline Gitei, Shirely Chebet, pilot group members Madita Morgenstern-Antao and Stephanie Nyairo, Prof. Lilac Osanjo (University of Nairobi), Linda Robens (German Design Museum Foundation). Photo: Kenneth Kinoti

About the Design Networking Hub

The Design Networking Hub is a digital knowledge and networking platform launched by the German Design Museum Foundation to support German-Kenyan cooperation projects in the field of design.

Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the task of this emerging design bridgehead is to initiate projects in the fields of architecture and design and to sustainably network creative minds from both countries and continents through concrete undertakings.

In order to make the information offered by the hub as user-oriented as possible, a pilot group of five young German and five young Kenyan designers and architects will initially work in small teams to develop new product and business ideas as well as non-profit concepts in the areas of mobility, living and digitalisation.

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