Around a year ago, I was invited to present at the AIA (Middle East Chapter). I was going to talk about Refugee Camps from a designers perspective. I’ve had previous experience studying about this topic and so I had no problem sifting through all that information again.
But the audience was not the typical audience I was expecting. Many of the attendees were architects and urban planners. I wasn’t prepared for that. I thought I was going to see a lot of students, perhaps enthusiasts … But not architects.
At first I was nervous, but I had prepared well and I was (still am) enthusiastic about the topic, so I would say that it went quite well.
My topic was “Refugee Camps, cities of tomorrow”. The reason why I chose this topic is because I stumbled upon an article that was encouraging architects to reconsider the temporariness of these shelters. To consider these settlements as units with infrastructure and all the services you would find in a typical city. The reason for that is the “temporariness” of these settlements is creating problems, not being able to develop these into even “semi-permanent” units, designers are forced to provide structures that are temporary and need replacement over time. Costly.
I talked briefly on the history of refugee camps then I moved towards the similarities and differences between cities and refugee camps (there are many). I also briefly touched upon my graduation project which involved designing units and other central services. I talked about the importance of providing infrastructure for such settlements and the role of architects in all of this.
I believe that this problem is bigger than what agencies can handle. It is time we consider more concrete solutions and regard this as a global issue that requires careful study.