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Competition: Place and Displacement

An open international contest has been launched for ideas to help integrate refugees into local urban communities around the world (Deadline: 1 February)

Organised by International Development in Action (IDeA), the two-stage competition seeks proposals for spatial and organisational strategies to boost connections between migrants and local inhabitants in three cities with large refugee populations.

The project aims to identify a series of solutions which could be implemented over a three-five year period and eventually lead to new permanent infrastructure. Participating teams are invited to draw up proposals for on one site in either Amman, Jordan; Nairobi, Kenya or Berlin.

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

According to the brief: ‘Refugee livelihoods have become a crucial topic in contemporary geopolitical relations. One fundamental challenge within the current relief assistance model for refugee populations is the separation between inhabitants and local communities. IDeA invites innovative minds around the world to propose spatial design and programmatic solutions that provide opportunities for refugees and local communities to strengthen ties while enabling self-agency.

‘This creative reknitting of the city can rely on a shared organisation and management of activities within co-constructed platforms that involve both refugees and the local community. Solutions should focus on addressing the economic and social vulnerabilities that refugees face in urban environments and provide creative ways that expand access, participation, and interaction between refugees and their local communities.’

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and home to around 100,000 refugees out of a population of 6.5 million people. Jordan’s capital Amman is home to a large number of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Somalia and Sudan refugees with growing housing, education and healthcare needs. Berlin meanwhile hosts around 65,000 refugees who are largely dependent on shelters due to the high cost and limited availability of suitable accommodation.

Last year, IDeA organised a separate contest to design a $100,000 marketplace structure for refugee camps in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Winners included Water Wall in Kenya by Ambra Chiaradia and Diana Paoluzzi, and Women’s Bazaar for Jordan by Nicole Lilly Gros and Maria Årthu.

Women’s Bazaar for Jordan by Nicole Lilly Gros and Maria Årthu

Women’s Bazaar for Jordan by Nicole Lilly Gros and Maria Årthu

Women’s Bazaar for Jordan by Nicole Lilly Gros and Maria Årthu

The competition language is English and submissions must include two boards featuring drawings and with four pages of textual description. The jury features more than 30 members – including architects, United Nations representatives and directors, academics and NGO leaders.

Proposals should recognise barriers to engagement and understanding between refugees and the local community consider how to engage both groups in the project’s development. Participants should also be cost-eff­ective and sustainable while featuring new methods to promote ‘self-agency, empowerment, creativity, community development, social interaction and cultural exchange.’

Three finalist teams will be invited to participate in a symposium in April in New York City where they will present their final schemes to policy-makers, architects, academics, NGOs, and philanthropists. Each team will receive a cash prize of $2,000 Per Team plus flight tickets to attend the event.

An overall winning team, selected by the audience during the symposium, will receive an additional $1,500 prize. A further six honourable mention prizes worth $1,000 each will also be handed out.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 1 February



Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan

The IDeA director of development discusses her ambitions for the Place and Displacement competition

Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan

Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan

Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan

Why are your holding a design and policy competition where refugees can build links with local communities?

The Place and Displacement Competition started in 2016 as one of the many projects hosted by a non-profit called Ideation Worldwide (IDeA). We are a group of graduate students from policy, architecture and urban planning backgrounds from three different universities in the US who wanted to raise awareness of issues in refugee resettlement and migration. Some of our team members have either lived in refugee camps, are refugees themselves, have personally been affected by migration and immigration, or have conducted in-depth studies and research on migration policy. We decided this year’s topic of refugee integration in urban areas based on the idea that infrastructure and buildings already exist in large cities that could be adapted and re-used for resettlement programs and activities. In addition, the experience of urban refugees greatly differ from those resettled in camps, whether that be in job acquisition or social integration, and in many cases their livelihoods are not given proper attention in the humanitarian field as those in refugee camps are.

In comparison to last year’s project: ‘A Marketplace in Refugee Settlements,’ we are not necessarily just advocating for the building and design of new facilities (which was more necessary in last year’s competition in rural settlements), but rather a holistic approach to programming and design with what is already available and could be integrated. Last year’s competition had 342 proposals submitted from more than 34 countries worldwide. We did not want to limit the participation of entries to specified countries because we understand that design curriculums in schools and firms vary over the world and every idea is valued in the brainstorming process.

To your question, ‘Is a contest the best way to raise awareness of these issues?’ there is no one way that is the best way to address the complexities of global migration of which in itself is so divisive and important, and likewise, there are ways other than a competition to raise awareness of refugee assistance as well. The goal of this competition is to give designers and policymakers an opportunity to expand their knowledge of new urban areas and pre-existing projects and critique, advocate, or create humanitarian practices and policy efforts that directly affect urban refugee communities. We hope that this competition can instil more empathy in students’ and practitioners’ design practices.

What is your vision for these new community facilities?

We are not building or advocating per se for new community facilities and we do not have restrictions on choice of site or budget. It is an open-ended project with judging criteria based on innovation, practicality, and social equity - among other benchmarks such as community involvement and sustainability. In the past, we have received proposals for architectural structures, digital programming, and solutions that provide low-cost infrastructural services.

Our jury this year includes design practitioners, academics, non-profit leaders, and government workers whose work is collectively dedicated to human rights, refugee assistance, and migration research. It is important that proposals not only just speak to architects in its design process but also those involved in humanitarian assistance, programming and policy.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This competition is open to all design and policy practitioners who have an interest in learning more about refugee communities, social integration and migration policy. We would love for smaller emerging practices and students to apply, preferably in interdisciplinary groups. That being said, prizes for this year include monetary compensation to winning teams and round-trip flight tickets to New York City to attend our annual symposium on design and migration. The symposium is open to the public and will be held in April 2018 hosted at Columbia University in New York City with practitioners and academics in attendance from UN Habitat, UNHCR, IRC and more.

IDeA does not provide funding for the implementation of winning proposals, however, we will provide support in connecting teams to potential funding sources and related organizations. All winning teams have the opportunity to pitch, meet and interact with individuals and practitioners working in the fields of migration and design at this public symposium.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Overall we do want to continue hosting this as a design and policy competition for refugee assistance in the future, but with a change in its theme every year. We would be interested in looking at the potential of specified sites, but similar to the last two years, allowing designers to choose their own site in a specified geographical area allows participants the flexibility to build and define the scope of their projects. As this is only the second year of the competition, there is a huge potential for us to grow as a team and partner with other organisations in defining new themes for future contests.