An open international ideas contest has been launched for innovative ideas to transform refugee camps into new long-term sustainable cities across Europe (Deadline: 30 April)
Open to students, architects and other disciplines, the contest seeks proposals for stable refugee settlements which could be used to reanimate depopulated areas in Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.
The Cities of Tomorrow project, backed by Project Earth 2, aims to identify new urban and architectural concepts that would provide suitable infrastructure for long-term inhabitation. The call for ideas is a response to the millions of refugees already living in camps around the world and the anticipation that 200 million more people could become climate refugees by 2050.
According to the brief: ‘Project Earth 2 wants to propose a different approach towards refugees and refugee camps. Rather than conceiving refugee camps as storage facilities to fulfil basic human needs and refugees as temporary inhabitants, we encourage you to zoom out and consider the refugee camps as the cities of tomorrow, as a changing structure that can grow, adapt and develop.
‘Refugee camps should be flexible and grow in an organised way as their population increases; transforming from a temporary shelter into a stable settlement, offering a worthy and dignified way of living to their inhabitants. Refugee camps should be integrated in the area that is established and create a positive impact from a social and economic perspective.
‘The number of people living in refugee camps with limited long-term infrastructure has increased rapidly in recent years amid an upsurge in armed conflicts, drought, food insecurity, degradation and poor governance.
‘It is estimated three million became refugees in 2016, but only 189,300 were permanently resettled. Over the long-term many communities have become stranded in camps, many of which operate with limited infrastructure for decades.’
The latest contest aims to rethink the concept of a refugee camp from temporary shelter to long-term economically active city. Proposals may take account of existing guidelines for temporary emergency settlements but should aim to deliver suitable infrastructure for long-term habitation.
Submissions should include an A1-sized display board along with a 700-word project description.
Judges include Lígia Paula Simões Esteves Nunes Pereira da Silva, founder of Architects Without Borders Portugal; Michelle Provoost, director of the International New Town Institute; and Daniel Wiens, founder of Journeyman International.
The overall winner – due to be announced in June – will receive €1,500, while a second prize of €1,000 and third prize of €300 will also be awarded along with 10 honourable mentions.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 1 May
Early registration from 1 February to 28 February: €40 + VAT
Regular registration from 1 March to 31 March: €60 + VAT
Advanced registration from 1 April to 30 April: €70 + VAT
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Mario Acosta
The team member at Project Earth 2 discusses his ambitions for the competition
Why are your holding a contest for strategic ideas to integrate refugee camps into their surrounding countries?
In my opinion, the effort of governments and the community of architects to solve the issues related to social development and climate change is not strong enough. Project Earth 2 Cities of Tomorrow is aiming at raising awareness from young future architects, giving visibility to the issues in refugee camps and twisting the understanding of the problem from a macro, rather than micro, perspective. A competition is one of the best ways to brainstorm for ideas by participants of diverse backgrounds and cultures. I think it is necessary to start creating solutions, as we will encounter a raise of refugees in the coming years not only from conflict, but also due to the climate change, and in the majority of cases, climate refugees will not be able to return to their home countries.
What is your vision for the new settlements?
They should include new uses and facilities addressing social inclusion, education and provide opportunities for its inhabitants to perform economic activities. Flexibility is also an important factor, being able to transform into a stable settlement (or a city) if it is required. Of course sustainability is a very important factor, and it is a great opportunity to apply and put in practice the knowledge and the strategies we already have to battle climate change. I think there is plenty of room for innovative ideas, but the main effort needs to come from the governments and corporations. Without their support, all the ideas will remain in the paper without being applied.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We are mainly reaching students and young designers. Organising competitions that address social development and climate change, we want to show them that, as a future architect, there is a wide range of paths you can choose, and social architecture is one of them. Participating in initiatives like ours, they will help to expand the community of committed architects putting an effort in designing a better world, increasing the number of solutions available and of course, start building up their portfolios, with the winners having a chance of being featured in the main architectural media outlets.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Our next steps will be directed towards the reuse of empty public buildings for social purposes. They are usually built with public resources and the CO2 footprint of the construction process of a building is enormous. Therefore we think it is a waste to keep those buildings empty if they could be reused as shelters, schools, spaces for creativity…
A good example could be the Olympic venues created in Rio de Janeiro. It was a very controversial case due to the economic and social situation in Brazil. Take a look at the news about the state and the use of them.
Another project we have in mind is to partner up with architecture universities of South America and organise a programme with them to engage students in the improvement of underdeveloped areas or in the reconstructions activities after natural disasters.
Are there any recent refugee settlement projects you have been impressed by?
I find interesting the initiative carried out by LATRA organization, founded by Aris Papadopoulus in Lesbos. LATRA specialises in circular design, environmental engineering and digital applications for the humanitarian sector and refugee camps. Its goal is to empower beneficiaries with 21st-century skills, in order to become directors of their lives and combat the adversities that they and their communities face.