‘If you compare life in the tents and life in these shelters, it’s a thousand times better,’ Iraqi refugee Saffa Hameed (34) says in The Guardian in a story on the election of IKEA Foundation’s Better Shelter as Beazley Design of the Year 2016. ‘The tents are like a piece of clothing and they would always move. We lived without any privacy. It was so difficult.’

Better Shelter is a flat pack solution for a new, safer and more durable shelter for refugee families. The design received both the Architecture award and the 2017 Grand Prize of Design Museum London’s Designs of the Year contest.

The Guardian’s design editor Oliver Waiwright heralds the clever design of the shelter that IKEA Foundation developed together with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. The two are partners of the WDCD Refugee Challenge too.

‘With years of expertise in squeezing complex items of furniture into the smallest self-assembly package possible,’ Wainwright writes, ‘Ikea has come up with a robust 17.5 sq m shelter that fits inside two boxes and can be assembled by four people in just four hours, following the familiar picture-based instructions – substituting the ubiquitous allen key for a hammer, with no extra tools necessary.’

Mixed emotions

Since production began in the summer of 2015 more than 16.000 Better Shelters have been deployed in disaster areas and refugee camps. Designer and interim Managing Director of Better Shelter, Johan Karlsson, reacted with pride and joy to the election.

‘We are above all pleased that this prize brings attention to our hard work, and as a result, the refugee situation as a whole. We accept this award with mixed emotions – while we are pleased that this kind of design is honoured, we are aware that it has been developed in response to the humanitarian needs that have arisen as the result of the refugee crisis.’

Rugs by refugees

The news coincides with more ‘refugee news’ from IKEA, as the furniture giant announced plans to roll out a new range of rugs and textiles made by Syrian refugees in 2019. The initiative is reportedly expected to provide some 200 Syrians living in Jordan with work. The rugs will be sold locally in the Middle East.

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