Pritzker Prize winning architect Shigeru Ban has signed an agreement with UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency tasked with guiding sustainable development, to design up to 20,000 new homes for refugees in Kenya’s Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement. Currently home to more than 37,000 refugees, the settlement is quickly outgrowing its original capacity of 45,000 – over 17,000 have arrived this year alone, with numbers expected to continue to increase. “The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required, and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly. It’s important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants.” Ban will draw from a wealth of experience designing humanitarian architecture, including more than a dozen displacement-related shelter projects around the world in countries including Rwanda, Italy, and Nepal, using unconventional building materials like cardboard and paper tubes. At a recent visit to the Kalobeyei Settlement, he also explained the importance of drawing from local construction traditions to provide familiar living spaces that are tailored to their environment.
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