Of the 7.8 billion people on the planet, more than 70 million are now refugees and asylum seekers. With few countries willing to receive these displaced people, many refugees are restrained in tents, or makeshift cities. These temporary solutions often become permanent, which come with significant challenges. City of Refugees – a three-year research by the University of Houston College of Architecture + Design under the direction of the studio professors, Peter Jay Zweig and Gail Peter Borden – offers a provocative approach to the discussion of new solutions: Four imaginary cities on four continents were designed as prototypes for the accommodation of migrants providing facilities to meet their immediate needs and long-term opportunities for their self-empowerment. The projects not only give insights into the diverse aspects of these utopias, but also chronicles the plight and journeys of refugees in contemporary society.
The current global geopolitical landscape is indelibly marked by rising national and international conflicts creating multiple regions and countries beset by massive migrations. Likewise, the consequences of climate change and man-made environmental damage are forcing people to leave their homes. Many refugees are caught between borders because fewer countries are accepting the growing numbers. This often leads to them being trapped in refugee camps: Although these expanding settlements were intended as temporary tent communities, in reality they have become increasingly permanent.