Seeking Refuge: Thinking differently about architectural solutions to the European refugee crisis

Architecture International
While project "Fill the Gap" is currently just a proposal, the students of Hannover's Leibniz University will be converting the roof of their building into a roof garden.

While project “Fill the Gap” is currently just a proposal, the students of Hannover’s Leibniz University will be converting the roof of their building into a roof garden. (Courtesy Deutsche Welle)

In a recently published article by NextCity, German students at Leibnitz University in Hannover have taken a different approach to the standard shantytown-tent communities often considered for refugee accommodation. Instead, they are proposing long-term solutions.

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Floating refugee centers can be set up from the 870 barges that currently aren’t in use in Germany. (Courtesy Deutsche Welle)

Providing tents, containers and gyms as places to house refugees may become impractical as the refugee crisis in Europe continues. Camps, usually comprising of tens of thousands of tents—the most common provision—take up a vast amount of ground space, which can compound the problem.

As an alternative, the students have created a handful of designs which feature schemes being built upon abandoned sites, narrow boats, and in car parks. The project, appropriately named “Fill the Gap,” is aimed at offering pragmatic solutions to refugee housing needs in Germany. Each program should be mainly timber-based, able to be constructed within one week, and capable of housing up to 40 refugees.

Underutilized parking garages can be rejiggered to accommodate parking on the lower levels and refugee housing on the upper levels.

Underutilized parking garages can be rejiggered to accommodate parking on the lower levels and refugee housing on the upper levels. (Courtesy Deutsche Welle)

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, architect Jörg Friedrich said “Timber creates a more comfortable living environment than previously-used metal boxes.” Friedrich, who is a professor at the Institute of Design at Leibniz University and creator of “Fill the Gap,” has called for a need to provide “welcoming and comfortable architecture for refugees in Germany.”

“Fill the Gap” as a project, was initially only meant to hypothetically provide housing solutions for 2,500 refugees in Hannover as Friedrich consulted with psychologists, anthropologists and conflict experts. However, the project has since drastically expanded as students found more and more innovative locations for short-term dwellings. While all but one of the solutions are (currently) imaginary, the project offers valuable insight to approaching refugee housing from a different angle.

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