60 609 In Transit -­ Safe spaces in crisis contexts


Passed foundation level courses/Master
Open for landscape and architecture students

Course content

As Europe faces its worst migration crisis since World War II, European leaders are debating how to respond to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in need of protection and safe living environments. While these challenges need to be worked on from many different angles and levels, there is an acute need for architects to take a proactive role in crisis response and offer their expertise on how to improve the physical conditions for people seeking sanctuary in unfamiliar environments.

The proposed course aims to develop design solutions and innovative spatial configuration of transitional spaces for displaced populations and their host communities, in order to offer a sense of normality and (the feeling of) safety in temporary, extreme situations. The course will focus on the various degrees of temporality, and how to best respond to each of these situations.

Nearly 60 million people are displaced by war and conflict worldwide. The number has increased sharply as a result of the war in Syria, which has forced 12 million people to flee their homes. The crisis in Syria is the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation. Every day, men, women and children cross the Mediterranean in search of safety. So far this year, 340,000 people have sought protection in Europe, many of them arriving by boat. The majority of those now arriving by boat in Greece are from Syria, where the civil war is now well into its fifth year. Host countries, and European ones in particular, are mostly not providing dignified living arrangements for the new arrivals.

Learning outcomes

Both the international community (the United Nations, the World Bank, INGOs, the EU, and others) and the professions constituting the built environment (architects, urban planners, landscape architects and engineers) urgently need to adapt their capacity and response to the shifting nature of this global crisis.
Merging architecture with the particularities of the United Nations and the international community’s crisis response mechanisms will be the main objective of the course. The course will provide students to gain insight into crisis response.The students will be introduced to the United Nations and its response mechanisms, focusing on the role of the architect and the subject of site planning within humanitarian response.

Working and learning activities

The studio is organized around four case-studies:

The students will form four groups; each group will study one case from the four most common transit situations of the current global circulation of people.

Spontaneous or planned camps for refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs)
Despite the temporary nature of this typology, camps – in particular planned ones, tend to become permanent settlements. There is a need for taking a longer-term perspective from the outset of a crisis, and plan these settlements with this in mind. How can architects maximize the capacity of people in acute need of protection, and at the same time ensure a high degree of livability? Potential case study: Zaatari refugee camp, JORDAN

Urban displacement and outside of camp contexts
The term urban displacement is used to refer to the specific challenges related to urban contexts where displaced populations mix with urban populations instead of settling in camp-like settings. Up to 80% of internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently live outside camp-like settings. Typically, urban displaced
populations are forced to settle in areas with inclement environmental and socio-economic conditions and their presence further exacerbate the vulnerability of the existing urban poor, who often live in informal settlements. Unlike Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, there are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Aid to refugees is essentially provided by civil society or the general population, especially by people who have opened up their homes, and by the municipalities of the villages and towns. Refugees have set themselves up in old houses and abandoned buildings. How can architects help both groups?
Potential case study: Relevant locations in LEBANON

Transit points and hyper-temporality
The current refugee crisis in Europe has created a paradoxical situation: the host country does not want the refugees there, and the refugees do not want to be there. At the same time, the arrivals are forced to stay in each country for a certain period of time, in order to register before continuing their journey (if allowed to do so). The arriving refugees need protection, shelter and other facilities, and the host countries are obligated to ensure this. What kind of spatial implications does this situation incite?
Potential case study: Transit points in GREECE, MACEDONIA OR CROATIA (depending on the situation at the time).

Reception facilites/Asylum Centers
When refugees have arrived at the country in which they wish to apply for asylum, they are accommodated in asylum centers. Some stay there for a few weeks, others for months, even years. These centers turn into a parallel world, in many cases secluded from their surroundings. How can these centers be best organized and designed, and how do they relate to their surroundings and neighbors?
Potential case study: Various asylum centers in NORWAY (could also be combined with the transitpoint on the border between NORWAY and RUSSIA).

AHO/NRC: Håvard Breivik (architect), Tone Selmer-Olsen (architect) Mattias Josefson (architect)
In collaboration with Norwegian Refugee Council and NORCAP

Professor in charge

Håvard Breivik (architect), Tone Selmer-Olsen (architect) Mattias Josefson (architect)