Architecture After Forced Migration

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Virginia Tech


Communities affected by climate impacts, political or cultural conflicts and rapid demographic shifts are the most vulnerable to the effects of poverty, disease and communal violence. Addressing their needs through appropriate architectural responses can help them to recover social, economic and environmental well-being.

This thesis defines strategies to address the challenges involved in the design of spaces after three causes of forced migration: natural disaster, conflict and urban development. The methodology is based on literature review which served as theoretical background to work in three design competitions related to shelter after natural disasters, refugee camps and slums.

The need to provide accommodation after a natural disaster is essential. Therefore, a shelter that can be transported and deployed quickly and effectively, and that contemplates the uniqueness and complexity of the event, is studied in this thesis.

Refugee camps have become the protective and safe place that provide shelter, food and health safety to all kinds of survivors and refugees. Due to the complexity of the problems related to this forced migration situation, the presence of refugee camps tends to be longer than the expected. Therefore, a design that contemplates this duality of time and that addresses peoples' needs and rights is part of this research.

Slums are often related to deprivation and socio-spatial exclusion and due to the lack of security of tenure, they are vulnerable to evictions caused by redevelopment pressures, gentrification processes and episodes of ethnic cleansing. Therefore, a neighborhood's transformation with cohesive public spaces and incremental housing prototypes is proposed in this thesis.

Through the study of architectural responses to natural disaster, refugee camps and slums design considerations related to the site, the culture and the urban context are established as guidelines. In addition, a time-based design strategy, a dual design approach and a multiple scales design strategy are defined as essential to give an architectural response to forced-displaced communities.



Forced migration, Temporary shelters, Refugee camps, Slums