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February 22, 2016
Fresh from Cape Town, South Africa, we bring you inspirational work by local and international creatives who took the stage at the Design Indaba festival. Their careers span advertising to architecture, yet they are unified by a purpose: to make a positive impact on the world through design.
Erik Kessels at Design Indaba 2016

Erik Kessels, KesselsKramer

Through the Dutch creative agency he helped found, Erik Kessels has made a name for himself zig-zagging around norms and expectations in advertising. He once rebranded a budget Amsterdam inn as the "worst hotel in the world" to distinguish it from prim, run-of-the-mill hospitality ads. The campaign's honesty worked, prefiguring the client's international expansion. Kessels told Design Indaba he uses misdirection and pretzel logic to make his most memorable work. 

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Thomas Chapman of Local Studio at Design Indaba

Thomas Chapman, Local Studio

Architect Thomas Chapman is inspired by the conviction that South Africans must "reknit" historically segregated communities using public space. To stifle popular demonstrations, the apartheid-era government restricted where assembly halls could be built, a legacy that has left the nation a paucity of community hubs. Local Studio recasts disused infrastructure in Johannesburg, such as a former German consulate building, as affordable housing, cultural centers, and parks. 

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Assemble Studio at Design Indaba

Paloma Strelitz and James Binning, Assemble Studio

Representing the young London collective Assemble, Paloma Strelitz and James Binning shared why it's important to be imaginative about what neglected urban spaces can be redeemed, showcasing work in former gas stations and underpasses. The pair's advice for designers just starting out: "Self-initiate projects, [or risk] coming to the table too late to ask the big questions."

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Alfredo Brillembourg at Design Indaba 2016

Alfredo Brillembourg, Urban-Think Tank

American-born architect Alfredo Brillembourg, who founded Urban-Think Tank in Venezuela, invigorated the crowd at the end of the first day with a sweeping vision for a new urbanism in the developing world. Summarizing the state of city planning in Africa at the outset ("Informality is the new normality"), he proceeded to lambaste earlier generations of architects for their complicity in perpetuating segregation and inequality, before calling for a more ethical and free-thinking practice built from the bottom-up. 

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Sou Fujimoto at Design Indaba 2016

Sou Fujimoto, Sou Fujimoto Architects

Internationally recognized Tokyo architect Sou Fujimoto presented on the ideal balance of indoor and outdoor, private and public, in the home. "Good architecture," he noted, "lets people choose between gradations [of nature] for infinite functions." Here, he shares his mind-bending 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, made of delicate steel bars. 

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Benjamin Hubert at Design Indaba

Benjamin Hubert, Layer

British industrial designer Benjamin Hubert walked the audience through the time and energy it takes to design an original object, then unveiled a data-driven plan to drastically cut waste. Arguing that we have more than enough chairs, tables, and sofas already, he suggested that designers put some of their resources toward more socially conscious work. Layer, for instance, recently redesigned charity donation cups for businesses in England, driving an 80 percent uptick in contributions. 

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Maxwell Mutanda & Safia Qureshi of Studio [D] Tale at Design Indaba

Maxwell Mutanda & Safia Qureshi, Studio [D] Tale

Designers Maxwell Mutanda and Safia Qureshi run Studio [D] Tale, a multinational firm based in Cape Town, London, and Harare, Zimbabwe. Together, they orchestrate ambitious, user-driven solutions to social and environmental problems, like making a wayfinding network for cities with informal public transit or a system for giant coffee chains to replace disposable cups with reusable ones. 

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Yogita Agrawal at Design Indaba

Yogita Agrawal, Yogita Agrawal Design

Recent Parsons graduate Yogita Agrawal electrified attendees with Jhoule, a wearable task light that is motion-powered. Made for rural communities in India, where people walk an average of 1-2 hours every day on unlit streets, the device underwent a redesign after an unsuccessful first launch to resemble traditional jewelry. 

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Christian Benimana at Design Indaba

Christian Benimana, MASS Studio Rwanda 

The audacity of Rwandan-born architect Christian Benimana's mission—to uplift working conditions and infrastructure in the developing world—is matched by his personal biography. Inspired by design early on in life, Benimana was crestfallen to learn his country had no formal architecture schools, so he relocated to Shanghai, taught himself Mandarin, and put himself through a program there. Now, as part of MASS Studio, he has returned to Rwanda, where he designs social infrastructure with a "lo-fab" approach, using local designers and materials to swell the economy. "Who builds something is just as important as how it's built," he noted. 

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Jaime Hayon at Design Indaba

Jaime Hayon, Hayon Studio

Spain's Jaime Hayon explored how, even after countless big-name collaborations, he continues to find fresh ways to make high-design fun. "When you think you know it all, the best place is to start from zero again," said Hayon, who then shared the unusual inspiration behind some of his most famous pieces. His Ro chair for Fritz Hansen was inspired by penguins and his Milá chair for Magis is meant to evoke a pineapple. 

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Erik Kessels at Design Indaba 2016

Erik Kessels, KesselsKramer

Through the Dutch creative agency he helped found, Erik Kessels has made a name for himself zig-zagging around norms and expectations in advertising. He once rebranded a budget Amsterdam inn as the "worst hotel in the world" to distinguish it from prim, run-of-the-mill hospitality ads. The campaign's honesty worked, prefiguring the client's international expansion. Kessels told Design Indaba he uses misdirection and pretzel logic to make his most memorable work. 

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