This paper explores social resilience through the lenses of migration. It specifically studies the role of community architects in building socially resilient refugee camps which are human settlements characterized by a transient and heterogeneous community with unique vulnerabilities. These settlements are managed through exceptional governance arrangements between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic humanitarian organizations.
Empirical evidences are drawn from the Office of Displaced Designers (ODD), a design-focused creative integration organization active on Lesvos island. During one-month ethnographic research with ODD, empirical data were harvested through an extensive review of project archive materials including transcripts and audio files of interviews with project participants and collaborators conducted by ODD, architectural drawings and teaching materials, photo and video archives and administrative documents. The ethnographic research was complemented with semi-structured interviews with the founding members and former volunteers and partners of ODD; key site visits to the Moria Hotspot and the surrounding Olive Groves; as well as a desk study on European Union (EU) policies and legislative papers and legal information regarding the asylum seeker application procedure in Europe and Greece.
Reflecting on the potential and limitations of community architects in building socially resilient refugee camps, the paper concludes that in order for community architects to make long lasting improvements they must think holistically and design flexible structural solutions for the entire camp, leverage existing expertise within communities and assist other organizations through administrative, financial and design consultancy support. Community architects are also expected to take active roles in forming pro-equity governance structures and steering pro-resilient humanitarian trajectories by acting as mediators, lobbying their partners, advocating for inclusive practices and social spaces and documenting their projects to build an evidence base across practices and contexts and to strengthen their voice as a collective of community architects.
The role of community architects in building socially resilient human settlements in post-disaster place-based recovery processes has been widely discussed in the disaster scholarship. These studies have primarily emphasized permanent and in situ reconstruction efforts in disaster-affected areas. What remains limitedly discussed is the resilience-building potential of community architects in extraterritorial temporary human settlements characterized by displacement and temporality such as in refugee camps. In light of these observations, the aim of this paper is to push the boundaries of knowledge on post-crisis recovery by re-approaching the notion of social resilience from a migratory perspective and revealing the potential and limitations of community architects in fostering socially resilient refugee camps in new (national) territories.
The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.
Funding: This work was supported by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen (FWO) [grant number 12Y4519N].
Paidakaki, A., De Becker, R., De Reu, Y., Viaene, F., Elnaschie, S. and Van den Broeck, P. (2021), "How can community architects build socially resilient refugee camps? Lessons from the Office of Displaced Designers in Lesvos, Greece", Archnet-IJAR, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ARCH-11-2020-0276
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