Al Za'atari - urban design by refugees

Friday 7 June 2024 - 18:00 to 19:30
The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ - 1 minute's walk from Farringdon Station



Al Za’atari 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 the settlement was laid out in the desert on a regular grid with accommodation provided in regimented rows of caravans each of 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 al Zaatari people have been able to make changes. As such, Al 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.

Presenter: Professor Husam AlWaer  University of Dundee 

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