Real Homes for Refugees

June 10, 2008 10:57 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Many refugees remain in camps for years or never return home, prompting some organizations to consider erecting permanent dwellings in camps littered with makeshift housing.

30-Second Summary

According to the New York Times, refugees and internally displaced persons are “confined to ad hoc cities, perhaps the purest form of a growing and global phenomenon: makeshift architecture, last-ditch living, emergency urbanism.”

For many complicated reasons, refugee camp design has always “focused less on shelter and more on food, water, security and medical care,” said the Times article. But in recent years, a few organizations, such as Architecture for Humanity, have begun focusing on dwellings, and creating permanent housing in camps where refugees often end up living for several years, or in some cases, for decades.

The fact that most of the Earth’s more than 20 million refugees seek permanence, away from strife in their homelands, is also being addressed by some design firms, reports Metropolis magazine.

For example, New York architectural firm Gans and Jelaic has created dwellings suitable for sustainable long-term refugee communities, inspired by the efforts of refugees themselves, who often respond to displacement by developing a unique camp economy, by gathering wood or growing their own crops. “People don’t lie idle,” said Gans.

The New York Times said among displaced persons, some strive to recreate what they had at home, while others simply give up. The attitudes of refugees depends on location and cultural background, leading most experts to agree that housing solutions “will have to start with local knowledge … rather than applying an architectural fiat from above.”

Headline Links: Refugees or permanent settlers?

Background Links: Making do in hastily constructed settlements

Related Links: Sustainable housing for refugee camps

Reference Links: Organizations focused on refugee housing


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