‘l used to have 1500 birds in my house, I had a big farm, oh I love birds very much. This one is my favourite bird, it is strong, colourful, and takes care of its family.’ Mousa, a bird lover with golden hands, painted his favourite bird on ceramic coffee cups for De Voorkamer, a self-built meeting space for newcomers and locals that opens its doors tomorrow in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

De Voorkamer (the Front Room) is a place and initiative that facilitates and stimulates the talents of people living in a refugee centre. In addition, it acts as a tool for communication and connection with the local society. Designers Shay Raviv and Pim van der Mijl, two graduates from the Design Academy Eindhoven, are the driving force behind the project.

‘De Voorkamer is a place where you can feel at home,’ they say. ‘A place where you meet new neighbours, where you can be inspired and can discover new things. A place where we make, eat, create, share and present together.’ Earlier Van der Mijl stated that he wanted to start ‘a movement that reacts with understanding and positivism on the arrival of refugees.’

Neutral yet personal

Together with people from the refugee centre, local workshops and volunteers De Voorkamer realizes a neutral yet personal place where newcomers’ talents are recognised, where there is room to develop skills and where people can learn to know each other.

‘In collaboration with local professionals, we design meetings and projects that bring the space to life and create objects that facilitate our activities’, the designers explain. ‘De Voorkamer changes its function, content and objects, according to the fascinations and interests of the participants. We work with small groups and strive to establish creative, valuable connections and an exchange of talents and inspiration.’

The concept of De Voorkamer, initially Pim van der Mijl’s graduation project, now becomes reality in the heart of the Lombok neighbourhood in Utrecht. With the help of BankGiro Loterij Fonds, VSBfonds and Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie an old corner shop has been transformed, ready to be opened on Saturday 3 December at 16:00 hours. Everyone is invited. You can announce your visit by joining the Facebook event.

De Voorkamer
Kanaalstraat 225

PS: You can meet Shay Raviv, who works for design research company STBY, at WDCD Live São Paulo on 13 & 14 December, where she will present two breakout sessions on WDCD’s new research theme Violence against women.

Top image: Shay Raviv (on stepladder) and Pim van der Mijl (second from right) with helpers prepare De Voorkamer

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