Architecture for Humanity - SF
Friday, February 27, 2004
Portland today has gone as far as to give homeless encampments campground status, where they can elect their own councils, and self-govern Tent City.

“The 60 residents of the area, called Dignity Village, have battled for four years to gain legal recognition for their encampment of tents, scavenged planks and cardboard boxes, all of which violate the city's zoning codes if defined as housing."

Examine that on a global scale, where refugees gain new status, a legal protection from the displacement of civil war, ethnic cleansing, and the limbomania of dual and non-citizenship. Imagine even Mexicans on the border as well as Kosovians in Europe. From Tent City to a City from Scratch.

Deborah Gans and Matthew Jelacic began analyzing refugee settlements and experiences in 1999, when they entered an Architecture for Humanity competition that called for low-cost quick-assembly alternatives to the white tent in response to the crises in Kosovo and Bosnia. The request for proposals specified that the structures be capable of withstanding two years of weather and use; in other words, the design was to be a temporary solution to what the organization saw as a temporary problem.”

And I just came across this, The Berkeley Prize 2004. Precisely the type of dialogue we need to be having, shared by an array of different voices. Read these essays, really, I think they articulate sort of where we are in our own endeavor, but also outline the committment to activism that is fundamentally rooted in design, extending architecture to a degree of pure human response to crisis and new notions of liveability and dignity.

“As future architects we want to know if those with our professional skills as designers and planners could be of use to local governments, institutions and private groups in meeting the needs posed by these disenfranchised populations. To find out, we are obliged 1) to understand the issues first hand and 2) to understand that solutions to these problems must be interdisciplinary.”

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