Mexico, a North American country spanning over 1,964,375 km2, features a vast mosaic of different cultures that extends far beyond its geographical boundaries. Nowhere is this diversity more evident than along the 3,141km border stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, running through 48 counties within the United States and 94 municipalities within the Mexican states.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that global forced displacement surpassed 80 million in 2020, which is more than one percent of humanity. Five countries account for 67 percent of people displaced across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Reasons can vary from war conflicts to economic, political, or environmental conflicts and crises.
What do Katuma, Hagadera, Dagahaley, Zaatari or Ifo bring to mind? They are truly beautiful names, and could easily belong to Italo Calvino's 55 invisible cities.
There is an architecture of the migrant. It is survivalist, built with what is available, made as quickly as possible, with safety as its core value. Americans romanticize that architecture as “Colonial”: simple timber buildings, with symmetric beginnings, infinite additions, and adaptations. But “Colonial” architecture is not what was built first by the immigrants to a fully foreign land 400 years ago. Like all migrant housing, time made it temporary and forgotten.
Found worldwide and revolving around various activities, from resource extraction to manufacturing, monotowns are urban settlements created around a single industry that employs the majority of the inhabitants. In the former Eastern Bloc, where monotowns are the remnants of the totalitarian regimes of the last half of the 20th century, the sudden transition from centralized economies to capitalism came as a profound shock to these settlements, generating processes of de-urbanization and internal migration. The following explores the architecture of the Russian Soviet-era monotowns, highlighting the failures, successes and current state of these particular urban environments.
Urban planning is often based on the assumption of ongoing demographic and economic growth, but as some environments face urban shrinkage, a new array of strategies comes into play. The shrinking city phenomenon is a process of urban decline with complex causes ranging from deindustrialization, internal migration, population decline, or depletion of natural resources. Referencing the existing research on the topic, the following showcases approaches to this phenomenon in different urban environments, highlighting the need to develop new urban design frameworks to address the growing challenge.
7 National Pavilions at the 2021 Venice Biennale that Explore Migration and its Impact on Built Environments
Several recurring qualities and topics were explored at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, answering curator Hashim Sarkis' question of "How Will We Live Together". Sarkis called upon architects “to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together”, spaces that are unbound by spatial or social contracts, and are flexible enough to welcome individuals and make them find a sense of belonging in an entirely different habitat. Unlike decades ago, migration today is no longer considered as relocating from rural areas to cities, where people needed to be in proximity to their workplaces. Technological advancements, new work modules, and most notably the pandemic altered the way people perceive spaces, making it possible to complete at least 85% of day-to-day responsibilities from practically anywhere in the world. What we have learned from previous cases, and what we are observing now, is that the built environment needs to be flexible.
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.