Al Za’atari Refugee Camp origins and evolution: Urban design by refugees.

Za’atari in Jordan is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, providing a home of sorts to 80,000 people, who have fled the war in Syria. Created by the UNHCR in July 2012 the settlement was laid out in the desert on a regular grid with accommodation provided in regimented rows of ‘caravans’ each of approximately 10 square metres area.

However people were able to rearrange the caravans, and alter the nature of the streets. Shopping streets emerged, and people were able to cluster the caravans to form larger units, with private spaces, courtyards, and gardens.

The standard urban delivery model worldwide excludes people from decisions on how they configure their neighbourhoods, streets and houses. In Za’atari people have been able to make changes. As such Za’atari is a major experiment in how people try to optimise the environments, even in the desperate circumstances of a refugee camp. There are important lessons to be learned with global relevance.

What does a town look like if people are left to co-create their own environment? We explore the lessons from Al Za’atari refugee Camp in Jordan.
© UDG

Presenter: Professor Husam Al Waer University of Dundee

Urban Design Group in collaboration with the Syrian-British Society of the Built Environment

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