Solutions or Utopia? Design for Refugees

20 MAY- 27 AUG 2017

There are currently around 65 million displaced persons worldwide. This exhibition focuses on recent designs for the refugees among them (more than 21 million): to use while in transit, in refugee camps, or when adapting to a new place. Refugees often lack the most basic necessities. Designers and architects can help to alleviate this need by creating inexpensive and/or smart solutions. They can also contribute at later stages, for instance, with integration and building a new life. Refugees themselves have been involved in the design and/or implementation of a number of projects in this exhibition. An example shown at this location is the Refugee Nation flag designed by Yara Said for the last Olympic Games.

The exhibition provides a platform for discussion about the role that designers, architects, and companies can play in this social issue. Designs and prototypes are on display alongside products that have already remarkably proven their value. It raises questions such as: What works and what does not? Is it a practical solution for a problem or a utopian vision? Is it appropriate to approach refugees as a separate group? How constructive is the Western gaze with which some designers regard the refugee issue?

A number of projects submitted to last year’s Refugee Challenge appear in this exhibition. The design contest was organized by the What Design Can Do conference team in Amsterdam, in collaboration with UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation.

The exhibition takes place at two locations, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Lola Lik, a cultural hub situated at the Bijlmerbajes, a former prison complex that has been temporarily converted into a refugee center (H.J.E. Wenckebachweg 48, Amsterdam, metro station: Spaklerweg). Lola Lik is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

From June 18 until June 26, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam will showcase Better Shelter in the entrance hall. Better Shelter provides temporary housing for refugees, and was developed in collaboration with the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR. For more information, visit our calendar.

Yara Said, The Refugee Nation Flag. Foto: Angela Luna

Unroll & Go, 2016. Designed by Amanda Maykot, Max Targanski Medeiros, Luna Uaná, Juliana Barreto, Marcelo Cantuária, João Soares. Courtesy of the designers