Last week, the unthinkable happened, and war has returned to Europe. As of yesterday, 520,000 people have left Ukraine in the span of only five days, triggering a rapidly-growing refugee emergency and what is considered the largest exodus of people in Europe since the Balkan wars. Unless there is an immediate end to hostilities, as many as 4 million Ukrainians are expected to leave the country in the coming days and weeks, according to the UN. Military violence and indiscriminate bombardments upon residential areas and civil facilities like hospitals and kindergartens further escalate the humanitarian crisis.
Migration: The Latest Architecture and News
When examining the world of African cinema, there are few names more prominent than that of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène. His films ‘La Noire de…’ and ‘Mandabi’, released in 1966 and 1968 respectively, are films that tell evocative stories on the legacies of colonialism, identity, and immigration. And whilst these two films are relatively slow-spaced, ‘slice-of-life stories, they also offer a valuable spatial critique of the setting where the films are based, providing a helpful framework to understand the intricacies of the post-colonial African city, and the contrast between the African and European metropolises.
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.
But they are not invisible cities, they are informal settlements in Kenya and Jordan, home to between 66,000 and 190,000 refugees, mostly from bordering countries, supposedly temporary camps that half a century later are still with us today. Generally lacking in infrastructure, some have schools and hospitals, and Zaatari even has a circus academy, but for most of the people who live there, they are the only cities they have ever known.
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.
“Abandonment Copies” is a research project created between 2016 and 2018 by artist Sandra Calvo consisting of a film, archives, drawings, interviews, and a video display which was exhibited in the Mexican pavilion during the 2021 Biennial of Venice. The project highlights architecture as a reflection of the migration process between Mexico and the United States, comparing and contrasting the houses where migrants work in the US and the ones they build in Mexico with the remittances they send.
Romanian Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Challenges and Opportunities of Mass Migration
Romania’s contribution to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale showcases a new perspective on mass migration, a phenomenon with a wide array of causes, ranking high on the international public agenda. Titled Fading Borders and curated by architects Irina Meliță and Ștefan Simion, the exhibition explores the challenges and opportunities of migration and its consequences on the built environment. Using Romania as a study case, where three million people have left the country in the last decade in pursuit of a better life abroad, the curatorial project frames a conversation around the role of architecture in the successful management of the migration phenomenon, as territorial boundaries continue to fade around the globe.
Over the past week, I’ve seen at least two large mainstream press articles on climate migration, and as more people seem to be tossing around their next move locale—something between North Dakota and anywhere else with the word “north” it. Often, in a simplified, single-issue flattening of the full-range of shifts happening around us.
Three years ago, in the wake of the release of his book Theories and History of the Modern City ("Teorías e Historia de la Ciudad Contemporánea", 2016, Editorial Gustavo Gili), we sat down with the author, Carlos García Vázquez, to discuss this complex and "uncertain creature' that is the modern city, focusing on the three categories that define cities today: Metropolis, Megalopolis, and Metapolis.
Based on an analysis of those "who have traditionally led the way in the planning of spaces" (sociologists, historians, and architects), the book illustrates the social, economic, and political forces that, in service to their own agendas, drive the planning, transformation, exploitation, and development of cities. In 120 years, urban centers have transformed from places where "people died from the city" to bastions of personal development and economic prosperity; however, the question remains —have cities really triumphed?
"Yes", says García Vásquez, "but we have paid dearly for it."
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.
International Competition of Ideas for the multifunctional center, Port of Culture, in Mariupol (UA)
Municipality of Mariupol (UA) invites architects, designers and interdisciplinary teams to submit architectural ideas for a new multifunctional center that will be devoted to the subject of migration, a process that has shaped the city throughout the centuries, becoming an integral part of its identity. The Port of Culture will uncover and explore the less known traits of Mariupol city, and contextualize its local history within larger regional and global processes related to migration.
We are looking for bold and authentic architectural idea for the Port of Culture, that will represent the values and the main themes of the new center,
OPEN CALL - SPRING SCHOOL
‘Borders are for Crossing’
18—25 March, 2019