Social Design for the Times: Refugee Shelters and Spaces…

Ever wondered about the IB Learner Profile? Yes students it does inform everything you study including Design Technology. When you are thinking about projects and / or becoming a designer. For a moment think about the IB Learner profile characteristic ‘caring’ and how this may affect you as a designer? At first this seems a pretty glib word, until we all think about the state our planet is in and how much the ‘World of Design’ can influence and change that world for the better.

Rwandan refugee camp
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Preventio  via Wikimedia Commons

I often research to get inspiration and look at different case studies to give me ideas and inspiration about projects and design ideas I am involved in. However just typing in ‘Design’ into google is an inefficient and narrow way to get that inspiration rather than typing in something related to a world problem and how design is helping to solve this? To give you an example—if you search on a world problem e.g. the continuing and upsetting ongoing refugee crisis around the world and then see how this may link with design—I came up with these two case studies which are inspiring and interesting in very different ways :

Case Study 1: Ikea Flatpack Refugee Shelter

This idea won design of the year: why you may wonder as aesthetically and initially it seems to lack innovation. However when you look at some of the details—you can see their is much innovation in an area which is very price conscious:

At $1,250, a Better Shelter costs twice as much as a typical emergency tent, but it provides security, insulation and durability, and it lasts for at least three years. Beyond that time, when the plastic panels might degrade, the frame can be reused and clad in whatever local materials are to hand, from mud bricks to corrugated iron.

What can you learn from this design in terms of production, sustainability, commercial production and raw materials? How does this design compare to the second case study?

Case Study 2: The Maidan Tent, Outdoor Space

This is a very different design, aesthetically more pleasing has a different function.

Again what can you learn from this design in terms of production, sustainability, commercial production and raw materials? How does this design compare to the first case study?

Does aesthetics matter, are communal spaces needed in a refugee camp or is this a waster of time on the designer?

I hope these two case studies get you thinking on both a caring social agenda as a designer and the responsibility this places upon you, but also in terms of the variety of outcomes and ideas that can come about to solve different problems facing the world.

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