‘We need to think beyond participatory design and turn over to transient or adaptive design,’ architect and humanitarian activist Cameron Sinclair told the WDCD audience in 2015. As an example Sinclair mentioned his RE:BUILD system of locally buildable, re-deployable structures, that are easy to hack by the people who have to use them. RE:BUILD is primarily designed for camp situations, but the approach could be of use in cities too.
RE:BUILD is a revolutionary design of re-deployable structures that can be adapted to the needs of individual communities, so they could become a house, a clinic or a school. Built without electricity or water, they can be constructed by anyone with no prior knowledge of construction.
Za’atari Refugee Camp school
In Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan, a school was built in 2 weeks by nine paid labourers working six hours a day. Total cost for the 16m x 16m structure was 30.000 euros and offers 120 children a chance to get education in double shifts. The idea is that the whole thing or parts of it can be moved to the refugee’s country of origin or elsewhere when needed.
The project combines natural elements like gravel, and typical items and accessories for construction like scaffolding tubes and, above all, the labour of the refugees themselves. The contribution of 10 labourers in assembling this very simple, quick and intuitive structure ensures that they once again feel in charge of their own destiny.
Again, RE:BUILD was designed for use in refugee camps in remote, desert-like areas. But the way of thinking could be inspirational for designers and architects who want to think about housing for refugees in cities. Asylum seekers have a lot of spare time and in most cases are eager to take their future in their own hands.