Unseen cities: Spatial strategies for building community in transience

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Ask about the availability of the thesis by sending email to the Aalto University Learning Centre oppimiskeskus@aalto.fi
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109 + 4
Today, humanitarian relief camps are temporary homes to over 23 million people worldwide fleeing war, among other causes for evacuation (UNHCR, 2017). Although only ever intended as a temporary, rudimentary solution, the camp reality for many is becoming a much more permanent one – creating nothing short of unseen cities. Their state of deterioration is sadly synonymous with their very existence and institutions worldwide are struggling everyday to provide safe and dignified solutions in this ever- ongoing world crisis. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate ways to improve human resilience and quality of life in these environments, focusing more precisely on ways to improve social health and community in the refugee camp context. The aim is to equip agencies and institutions with strategic methods to plan for community building public spaces in refugee camps. Through direct relationship building on-site, using interviews and informal meetings, the project was able to develop with a very intimate perspective of the existing spatial and social dynamics of camps in Lebanon and Greece. By adapting traditional public space theories and pairing social health guidelines when conducting spatial studies, the results offered a candid window into what was hurting or helping community life within the camps. The overall research generated a method to measure a community’s existing social health in public space, applicable both in refugee camps and beyond, a strategic checklist intended as a comprehensive tool for planning community spaces in refugee camps as a future standard, as well as a redesign of one of the studied camps using the tools developed.
Nyström, Maria
Thesis advisor
Da Cruz Brandao, Emilio
refugee camps, resettlement, urban design, urban strategies, community planning, community building, humanitarian, spatial design
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