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An Italian Designer’s Humble Beginnings

Giacomo Moor, an acclaimed Italian designer, embarked on a project that would change lives in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. When invited to design and create furniture for a school located in one of Nairobi’s informal settlements last year, he immediately knew that his ideas needed to be functional, simplistic, and easy-to-assemble. The concept of “simplification” guided Moor through the entire production process, ensuring every little detail was well thought out and practical for the local community.

Designing for the Community

Moor’s primary goal when developing this furniture range was to create pieces that could be easily assembled by the locals themselves, using only a few basic tools, such as a chisel, carpenter’s square and pencil. This unique idea came to life with a series of modular bunk beds, benches, and tables featuring clean lines, adaptable interlocking joints without any decoration, setting them apart from traditional furniture designs. Not only do these items look good, they have become a source of pride for the students at the Why Not Academy primary school in Mathare slum for which they were crafted.

Bridging the Gap: The Power of Collaboration

Moor’s vision, called “Design for Communities,” involved working closely with an Italian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that focuses on improving the living conditions in urban settlements across the globe. Silvia Orazi, the director of LiveInSlums, stresses the importance of integrating the target communities throughout the furniture creation process, giving them a sense of ownership and control over their environments.

As part of this collaboration, Moor traveled to Nairobi, where he conducted a series of workshops with local inhabitants, providing them with the necessary blueprints for assembling Moor’s innovative furniture designs. This project not only uplifted the communal spaces but also empowered local residents, imparting valuable skills and knowledge that could potentially transform their lives.

Overcoming Limitations

As resources are limited in informal settlements like Mathare slum, Moor designed these furniture pieces to require no glue or nails for assembly, using interlocking wooden components instead. However, to ensure safety, he added four supporting nails to each piece for extra precaution.

  • Functional: The modular nature of the bunk beds, benches, and tables makes them easy to assemble, disassemble, and rearrange according to the needs of users .
  • Simplistic: Minimalistic designs featuring clean lines and no decoration resonate well with the practical requirements of the community.
  • Easy-to-assemble: Interlocking joints eliminate the need for screws, nails, or other fasteners, making it straightforward for locals without prior woodworking experience to put these items together.

Inspiring Change One Design at a Time

Giacomo Moor’s “Design for Communities” initiative is an exemplary illustration of how thoughtful design can have an immense impact on people’s lives in underserved communities. Through this collaboration, Moor has served as an inspiration to many, including Kevin Ochieng who, despite having no previous woodworking experience, learned from Moor and assembled prototypes on his own.

By giving power back to the people, this Italian designer has introduced transformation and growth potential within the impoverished areas of Nairobi. His unique vision of empowering communities through simple yet functional design is truly commendable and shows that change can start with just a single idea.

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