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The Redesign of Refugee Camps and the Connection and Integration of Refugees with Local Communities through Space

Despoina Kouinoglou / ECOWEEK

Refugees welcome in parks book cover_edi
Case Study, Publication



Displacement, Social Cohesion

Globally, within permanent artificial settlements like refugee camps, ineffective planning, design, decision-making, and political involvement are linked to the emergence of issues like the loss of cultural identity and sense of place, and the declining mental health and well-being. During this process, emphasizing the integration of cultural habits and the needs of the population is crucial to empower temporary camp residents in organizing themselves and revitalizing social life through their surroundings. Poor planning and design outcomes can lead to either overgrowing problems or possibilities: for example, they can contribute to social exclusion, particularly among vulnerable groups within the camps (e.g., women and children), or they can serve as an opportunity for both the humanitarian aid sector and landscape architects to identify necessary steps toward integrating refugees within the camps and the broader community.
The objective of this study is to underscore the universal necessity for high-quality spaces within refugee camps. This need persists regardless of an individual's citizenship status, even when the population is temporarily situated in these settlements.

The case study of Lagadikia, Greece, has been selected to illustrate and elucidate the opportunities and limitations of the existing spatial arrangement within the camp. This arrangement significantly affects the organization of social life and the assimilation of refugees into the local community. Cultural identity plays a pivotal role in shaping the camp's spatial layout. The study's outcome entails the identification of five distinct spatial typologies within the camp, spanning various scales (public, semi-public, semi-private, and private levels). When thoughtfully planned and designed, these typologies can be applied not only in Greek camps but also worldwide, irrespective of camp size or location.

As for the integration of refugees with local communities, achieving this goal requires the humanitarian aid sector to exert pressure on policy makers. Implementation and enforcement of policies at international, national, and local levels should reevaluate refugees' status, their right to work, and the creation of opportunities for livelihood. Notably, the European Union's Framework for the Social and Solidarity Economy serves as a promising precedent and starting point for such policies.

This initial research originated during the ECOWEEK 2016 workshop in Thessaloniki, Greece, led by author Despoina Kouinoglou, along with Dastid Ferati and Astrit S. Rraci. The study was further developed through the author's thesis research for the Postgraduate Program of Studies in Landscape Architecture at the Polytechnic School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, under the guidance of Prof. Kiriaki Tsoukala. The study's first publication is featured in the second volume of ECOWEEK: 15 Paths to Sustainability, from Innovation to Social Design, edited by Dr. Elias Messinas and author Despoina Kouinoglou. This book presents exemplary studies in sustainability, circularity, public participation, innovation, and social design.

(First publication: ECOWEEK Book#2: 15 Paths to Sustainability: from Innovation to Social Design, edited by Dr. Elias Messinas and Despoina Kouinoglou, 2021)

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