Beyond Refugee Housing: 5 Examples of Social Infrastructure for Displaced People




Playgrounds for Refugee Children in Bar Elias, Lebanon. Image © CatalyticAction

Playgrounds for Refugee Children in Bar Elias, Lebanon. Image © CatalyticAction

Throughout human history, the movement of populations–in search of food, shelter, or better economic opportunities–has been the norm rather than the exception. Today, however, the world is witnessing unprecedented levels of displacement. The United Nations reports that 68.5 million people are currently displaced from their homes; this includes nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of eighteen. With conflicts raging on in countries like Syria and Myanmar, and climate change set to lead to increased sea levels and crop failures, the crisis is increasingly being recognised as one of the foundational challenges of the twenty-first century.

While emergency housing has dominated the discourse surrounding displacement in the architecture industry, it is critical for architects and planners to study and respond to the socio-cultural ramifications of population movements. How do we build cities that are adaptive to the holistic needs of fluid populations? How do we ensure that our communities absorb refugees and migrants into their local social fabric?

This World Refugee Day, let’s take a look at 5 shining examples of social infrastructure from around the world–schools, hospitals, and community spaces–that are specifically directed at serving displaced populations.

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