Kounkuey Design Initiative

Kounkuey Design Initiative | Play Streets, Los Angeles, CA, ongoing. Image courtesy Kounkuey Design Initiative

The Architectural League’s annual Emerging Voices program spotlights North American architects, landscape architects, and urban designers who have significant bodies of realized work and the potential to influence their field.

Kounkuey Design Initiative won a 2021 award.

Kounkuey Design Initiative was founded in 2006 by a group of Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) students as a community development and design nonprofit. Cofounder and executive director Chelina Odbert leads a multidisciplinary team with offices in Los Angeles, Eastern Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm. The firm structure includes four service areas: Design + Build, Plan + Program, Advocate + Educate, and Research + Test. KDI has pioneered participatory models of planning and design, following its guiding philosophy: “to create meaningful opportunities for diverse groups to share decision making power in the processes that will shape their neighborhoods.”

Projects include:

Odbert holds a bachelor’s degree from Claremont McKenna College and a master’s degree in urban planning from the Harvard GSD. She was a finalist for the 2020 Ross Center Prize for Cities, World Resource Center, and received a 2019 Knight Foundation Public Spaces Fellowship. Odbert currently teaches urban planning at UCLA.