How Refugee Camp Architecture Is Capturing the Power of Shade

“According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are approximately 45.2 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Of this staggering number, 15.4 million are considered refugees—people who were forced out of their country of origin due to war, fear of persecution, or national disaster, left to take up temporary residence in often inadequate structures with limited access to basic human needs. Without a permanent place to settle, and facing a lack of proper security and shelter, refugees face a disproportionally high rate of disease, mental illness, and violence, leaving millions in a state of extreme vulnerability.

Refugee camps set up by governmental agencies, international organizations like the United Nations and the Red Cross, and NGOs provide a place for displaced people to temporarily access food, water, and shelter. Camps are often set up in an impromptu fashion, designed only to provide basic needs for a short period of time. Tents constructed of inexpensive materials like tarp, which can be easily assembled and transported, provide refugees with places to sleep and protection from the sun and exposure to the elements. However, lacking solid, durable materials and structure, this kind of mass housing solution lasts only about nine years. All too often, the short-term nature of refugee camps leave displaced people without a dignified place to call home.

Recently, architects and designers have been using their knowledge of urban planning and the built environment to envision camps that give refugees more security and protection, helping them recover in more humane conditions. Last year, Architecture for Humanity launched a campaign to raise funds for its “Safe Spaces” project, which envisions a series of welcoming, safe spaces that act as nodal points within the camps. Unlike the often sterile, utilitarian longer-term housing solutions for camps, Architecture for Humanity’s design would incorporate more contextual materials to create a better sense of comfort while shielding refugees from excess heat and daylight. As the nature of refugee camps continue to evolve with the development of new cost-saving materials and technologies, we see more and more proposals that provide better protection from the elements and create a sense of pride and dignity.”

Finding shelter from the sun is a constant challenge in refugee camps. Image via Green Prophet.

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