Open Source Communities by Kenyan Designers BellTower, Wins the Lexus Design Award 2020

1 September 2020

BellTower, from Kenya, is the Grand Prix winner of the Lexus Design Award 2020. Its entry, Open Source Communities, was selected from more than 2,000 entries received from 79 countries worldwide.

Judging for the eighth edition of the award was based on the three key principles of the Lexus brand: Anticipate, Innovate and Captivate in the quest for a Better Tomorrow. The winning design addresses challenges often found in developing countries by using smart open-source planning to design affordable communities with sustainable clean water resources.

BellTower (John Brian Kamau, Joyce Wairimu Gachiri, Ian Githegi Kamau, Esther Wanjiku Kamau and Arvin Booker Kamau) was established in 2014 with the vision of using open source systems and technologies to solve problems. The designers came together to create a team with skills in risk management, information technology, design, project management and strategy, to build an open-source community model for personal, corporate and industrial needs.

Accepting the award on behalf of BellTower, John Brian Kamau said: “It was a great honour for us as BellTower to be one of the six finalists and then win the Grand Prix in the Lexus Design Award 2020. Our journey began with many challenges. However, we persevered to showcase our ambitious concept. Our experience has taught us invaluable lifelong lessons. All our future designs will be aligned with the key principles we learned as part of the Lexus family.”

This year, given the exceptional circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic, Lexus hosted a virtual judging process and the Grand Prix winner was announced after each of the six international finalists made a presentation to the award judges explaining how their design would help create a better tomorrow.

Announcing the panel’s decision, Lexus Design Award judge and Studio Gang Founding Principal, Jeanne Gang, said: “At different moments in time, design has celebrated bold aesthetics, extreme functionality, and even humour and wit. But today, with our world plagued by the enormous issues of climate change and social inequality, there is a design imperative for systemic design solutions. The Grand Prix winner expands our definition of design to include systems of finance for community projects and engages the critical role clean drinking water plays in citizens’ ability to thrive. By addressing the way that the project will come into being and be sustained economically, the designers broaden our thinking about what design is and could be. 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.”

Lexus sincerely thanks the six finalists of the Lexus Design Award 2020 for their hard work and is grateful for the passion and commitment of the judges, Paola Antonelli, Jeanne Gang, John Maeda, and Simon Humphries, and the mentors who worked with the finalists, Joe Doucet, Bethan Gray, Philippe Malouin, and Shohei Shigematsu.

Lexus Design Award trophy

The trophy presented to the winner was designed by Hideki Yoshimoto, a winner of the Lexus Design Award 2013 and now an established professional designer, based in London. He said: “This trophy will be the face of the award for years to come, so I tried to create a simple, dignified form, free of affectation, in a design where boldness and subtlety coexist. Artisans carve the trophy from smoke-seasoned wood and lacquer it in the Japanese tradition. Handcrafting each trophy imbues it with heart and soul to resonate with the winner’s creative passion.” ENDSNotes to editors

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Lexus Design Award 2021 is open for entries until October 11:

Official Hashtag: #LexusDesignAward


Lexus launched in 1989 with a flagship saloon and a guest experience that helped define the premium automotive industry. In 1998, Lexus introduced the premium crossover category with the launch of the Lexus RX, the world’s first luxury hybrid, and has since sold more than 1.5 million hybrid vehicles in more than 90 countries worldwide.

Lexus is a global luxury automotive brand with a commitment to bold, uncompromising design, exceptional craftsmanship, and exhilarating performance, and has developed its lineup to meet the needs of the next generation of global guests.

Lexus associates/team members across the world are dedicated to crafting amazing experiences that are uniquely Lexus, and that excite and change the world.


First launched in 2013, the Lexus Design Award is an international design competition that targets up-and-coming creators from around the world. The award seeks to foster the growth of ideas that contribute to society by supporting designers and creators whose works can help shape a better future. It provides a unique opportunity for each finalist to work with a globally recognised designer as a mentor to create prototypes of their designs, and then exhibit them at one of the design calendar’s most important events.


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Open Source Communities by Kenyan Designers BellTower, Wins the Lexus Design Award 2020



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