3_FROM REFUGEE CAMP, TO THE FIRST CITY Refugee camps are generally perceived as part of the vast family of “non places”, enclaves living in a condition of isolation from their context (Auge 1995) Their construction and maintenance is promoted on the basis of their being temporary, a situation of momentary relief offered to its guest with the perspective of them returning to their country. Generally they are built following the guidelines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, contained in the “ UNHCR handbook for emergencies”. Currently, 16 pages in chapter 12 of the handbook define the principles in the planning of refugee camps world wide6. Refugee camps provide shelter, safety and food to hundred of thousands, however, once the fear of the journey has dissipated, these spaces often become the stage for new problems; Prolonged inactivity, the lack of work or stimuli, the impossibility to modify or adapt the environment rapidly erode the high ideals that motivate their construction. As time goes by, there is a shift from the positive active ideals that motivate the camps, to the feeling of an enormous potential being lost, the cost of this loss being payed both by the refugees, trapped in a limbo, and by the host, obliged to provide resources for months, often years.
Hence, one of our main challenges as curators is to explore, discuss and test alternative solutions that tackle the possibility of devising a place that is able to be both temporary and permanent, that is able to provide hope, that is as resilient and self sustainable as possible. 5_THE FIRST CITY
The dramatic scene of refugees crossing the sea in full danger is in sharp contrast with the daily routine of a camp, saturated by dullness, boredom and repetition. With the average life of a camp spanning between 7 and 15 years - the span of a generation - and with many former camps having already turned into permanent settlements, the battle between permanence and removal remains an open topic, and how neutral and controlled this places ought to be is a key question to address.
The role of architects in Turkey, but also worldwide, has so far being marginal, relegated either to the realm of micro-interventions, acupuncture solutions in already compromised situations, or to academic research. This has generated a plethora of innovative and interesting solutions in the realm of design, but has left undiscussed the principles and ideas that motivate the form of todays camps, as well as the increasingly important role they will play in the future of our societies. Not long ago, the architecture community was taken into account to come up with innovative solutions to global problems. The case of PREVI in Lima is strikingly forgotten by history; in 1969 the best architects of the world in combination with the best architects of Peru, supported by UN tried to devise an affordable housing solution that would incorporate in a later stage the additions of the users. It was precisely this experiment that triggered Aravena to launch his innovative incremental housing solution called ELEMENTAL as an international competition.
Taking move from the apparent predictability of the camp it is necessary to open a discourse on appropriation and ownership, identity and neutrality, hospitality and rejection - the struggles and ambitions that lay underneath the orthogonal grid. There is a world that the manual, inspired by modernist principles of hygiene and order, does not contemplate, one which is already visible in the interiors of the containers and the tents, where habits and ambitions have found a place to become manifest. In a world where mass migrations pose one of the foreseeable challenges of the future, can the camp become the ground to develop new models of living, owning and sharing? How can we expand our vocabulary of dealing with these emergencies beyond the refugee camp? How can we update our understanding and our solutions to migrations beyond the usual jargon of oppositions -neutrality vs contextual, nomadic vs sedentary, permanent vs ephemeral-? How can architects intervene in this field, one that will likely affect the living space of more and more people in the future? 4_TURKEY’S CURRENT POLICY To cope with the refugee crisis Turkey has built 24 refugee camps along its Syrian border following the UNHCR guidelines. These camps are run and administered by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, and are generally regarded as being of the highest quality achievable for a refugee camp; compact in size, carefully maintained and well controlled7. Yet, many speculate that the scheme is unsustainable financially, especially if the conflict in Syria extends several years. The camp needs to be addressed from a dif-
ferent lens, that of a potentially stable settlement, even a city. Former UNHCR Refugee expert Kilian Kleinschmidt points that “The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That’s a generation. Let’s look at these places as cities.”8 Although the Turkish camps are exemplary, they are also temporary solutions “A camp is still a camp, and if a camp becomes a shelter not just for a few months but for years, a substitute — even a deterrent — to a real solution, how much does it matter how nice it is?”9 The key issue is beyond design, amenities, cleanliness. It is about potential or the lack of it. It is about the possibility of making a home in a place where there is hope for the future. As one refugee referred to the current refugee camp in Kilis: “This is a five-star hotel,” then, with his next breath, “We’re not happy here.” They have zero complaints, yet they can’t picture themselves here. “What if it was permanent?” they ask him, his answer “It’s impossible to accept this.”10
7_How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp. Mac Mcclelland. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes. com/2014/02/16/magazine/how-to-build-a-perfect-refugee-camp.html?_r=1
With the Turkish pavilion we wish to address this lack of involvement regarding the refugee crisis in a direct, comprehensive and coherent manner. A team, composed of architects, designers, urbanists with the support of experts of various fields will be invited to contribute, discuss, and produce a project that addreses the theme mentioned above. The strategic design will tackle the “refugee camp”, as a response to emergencies, but, above all, as the possibility of a permanent human settlement. This team will address the contingent emergencies to which refugee camps need to provide an immediate answer as well as reflect and design upon the need of providing an identity, a sense of belonging to the inhabitants, an economic and cultural vision for its future. The proposal will focus on a site to be discussed with Turkey’s govermental agencies and with experts on the field. It will give priority to innovation and to collaboration. It will be the result of a collaborative format that will be reflected in the installation of the pavilion central pieces. The presented piece will be realizable utopia - an effort of the imagination, not a fantasy - one where architecture can be the catalyst of the effort.
8_Refugee Camps are the cities of tomorrow. says Humanitarian Aid Expert. Deseen. Nov 23, 2015. http:// www.dezeen.com/2015/11/23/refugee-camps-cities-of-tomorrow-killian-kleinschmidt-interview-humanitarian-aid-expert/ 9_Idem