by Shaikha f Al-Mubaraki
tutors: Dr. Abdulmutalib Al-Ballam, Professor Quinsan Ciao
Kuwait University, Dept. of Architecture, College of Engineering and Petroleum
More than 55% of refugees never return to their homeland, staying in camps for an average of 17 years, occasionally even for a lifetime. Hence there is a desperate need for refugee camps to be able to evolve into towns. Camps have existed since 1951 but until today, the approach to planning such camps has not changed. Due to its simplicity, a ‘military-like’ grid arrangement became the prototype applied all around the world, with no specific reference to location, culture or climate. Refugees are individuals who have become displaced and torn away from their urban fabric, which changes the most essential existential need – the need to dwell. Therefore, tracing the natural process of dwelling and resettlement should be the basis for planning a camp, as it is the natural way in which people become acquainted with a place. Current planning provides aid and protection for the refugees, but does not teach them how to sustain themselves. The manner in which the camp is created suggests an end to natural growth. Therefore designing a possibility for the refugees to sustain themselves would be a much more efficient solution, enabling a refugee to generate, create and produce, and thus move back naturally into his environment. A closer look at the type of refugees in the camp is important; considering differences in culture, religion and traditions when planning would lead to different outcomes depending on the region. Encouragement of self-sustaining strategies, like farming, would categorize refugees as an agrarian society rather than simply as a displaced one. Allocating different spaces for people with different possessions and family sizes would also generate a more natural order. As for the living unit, it is important that the method of building allows easy access to all refugees of all ages, by means of available materials with techniques that are not foreign. Thus, the act of making becomes the act of healing.