Lexus New Zealand has announced that University of Auckland design student Uttam (Calico) Raju has won the annual local Lexus Design Award competition, for his entry “Calico’s Salty Solution”.

Calico’s design utilises the combination of hydroponic farming and mirrors to create thermal energy and desalinate water, a sustainable alternative for converting seawater to freshwater.

Addressing water-scarcity issues and limiting freshwater spending – 70% of which is allocated to agriculture, the water would then be distributed to residents for drinking and to a vertical farm growing fresh produce.

Lexus New Zealand General Manager Andrew Davis says, “our judges had a difficult time choosing a top three this year, let alone a winner, after ten strong entries were submitted. Calico’s innovative concept stood out to us due to his ambitious concept and the potential for his design to scale up, to better the lives of millions.

For a third consecutive year, Lexus New Zealand has collaborated with university students at Auckland University of Technology to showcase and encourage Aotearoa’s top designers on the global platform that is the international Lexus Design Award. This is the first year the competition has also been open to students at the University of Auckland.

Students from both universities involved in the local competition were tasked with creating written submissions supported by imagery to present concepts that address 2023’s competition theme: ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’.

This year, the winners have brought to the table new aesthetics, material, and behavioural approaches to their unique designs.

Entries ranged from AI-generated holographic video content to furniture that purifies the air around you, this year’s Lexus Design Award finalists have created a range of forward-thinking concepts that speak to the Awards’ theme.

Their concepts support a brighter future while articulating anticipation, innovation and captivation – personifying the essence of the Lexus brand. Lexus New Zealand has endorsed all 10 of the domestic competition entries to progress through to the international Lexus Design Awards competition.

Andrew Davis commented on the high quality of entries this year, “we have amazing emerging design talent here in Aotearoa. It’s rewarding to see our local competition growing year on year.

“With more entries endorsed by Lexus New Zealand into the global competition, we see opportunities for the entrants to gain both local and international exposure, as well as opportunities to further pursue and refine their concepts, possibly into functional prototypes.

“We are excited to see the depth of local talent so focused on enriching our lives by making the impossible possible, which is a core premise of the Lexus brand.”

Lexus brand ambassadors and founders of Resident, the globally focused design company, Simon James and Scott Bridgens, have closely mentored students throughout the submission process.

Lexus will provide cash prizes to the first, second and third place winners of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 respectively. The winners were announced on Wednesday at a prizegiving ceremony hosted by AUT.

The winning concepts were:

1st Place – Uttam Raju for his concept ‘Calico’s Salty Solution’

2nd Place – Mark Rous for his concept ‘Saddle’

3rd Place – Tony Cao for his concept ‘Advanced Sleeping Mask’

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