Kounkuey Design Initiative was founded in 2006 by six students at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Despite hailing from various countries and training in diverse disciplines, they were all asking one question.
This question led them to Nairobi, where Kenyan co-founder Arthur Adeya is from. There, they began working with residents of an informal settlement called Kibera.
Though their education had focused on the designer as sole author, the students knew that their skills would not be useful unless those living in Kibera were actively guiding them. And so it became their goal to deconstruct the traditional designer-client relationship and introduce new voices into the design process.
Thai cofounder Kotch Voraakhom found the perfect name to capture the significance of this approach: Kounkuey. It means to get to know something intimately.
An international, interdisciplinary firm, KDI combines:
- the pragmatism of engineering,
- the environmental attunement of landscape architecture,
- the persistence of community organizing,
- the formal beauty of architecture,
- and the political savvy of urban planning
to create physical, social, and economic infrastructures that provide the basis for equitable communities.