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from July 13 2015 until January 17 2016
Design Column #11 Migration Matters features practical solutions and innovative concepts for dealing with the refugee crisis.
Never before have there been so many refugees on the move. Almost sixty million people are currently displaced, according to the Global Trends Report published by the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR on 18 June. The war in Syria and the emergence of the Islamic State have caused many Syrians, Libyans and others to flee for their lives. Poverty, violence and religious oppression in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea have also resulted in such hopeless situations that people are prepared to abandon everything for the chance of a better life.
What is often overlooked is that no fewer than nine out of ten refugees end up in economically less developed countries and regions. Nonetheless, streams of migrants are placing increasing pressure on the European system. This is tangible not only in countries on the periphery of Europe; in Calais too the situation is precarious. This problem needs to be addressed at EU level. However, despite hours of debate on 25 and 26 June, the EU failed to reach a binding agreement on a quota system for absorbing 60,000 refugees among the member states. The only agreement reached was on the voluntary intake of refugees.
Meanwhile the humanitarian crisis continues to grow. In the past eighteen months at least 4200 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. In the first half of 2015 alone French police intercepted 18,170 people attempting to travel to the United Kingdom: four times the total number in 2013. The situation will become all the more harrowing this summer with the annual mass migration of European holidaymakers seeking a lazy few weeks on a beach – the same beaches on which refugees will land in an attempt to save their lives.
Richard van der Laken, founder and director of the design conference What Design Can Do, recently called upon designers to contribute ideas to help refugees. He doesn’t claim that designers can solve this vast and complex problem but he is convinced that designers can play a part in each phase of the refugee’s journey.
Every three months the Design Column focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The column is a place where new ideas are made visible, where the power of imagination is given expression. Designers and artists are especially interested in experimental imagination. With their idiosyncratic vision, they see things differently and are capable of bringing about change. The Design Column creates a space for these innovative concepts.
The Design Column is not only a presentation but is also an opportunity for reaction and dialogue. You are cordially invited to participate in a roundtable conversation that will take place at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. If you would like to participate in this conversation, please contact the curators of the Design Column at firstname.lastname@example.org. Current information on location and date will be published on the website.
Every Design Column is accompanied by a blog, here you can find reactions and up-to-date information on the current and previous editions: www.designcolumn.nl
On view at Design Column #11 Migration Matters
Together with the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation, a group of designers has designed Better Shelter, an alternative to existing accommodation for refugees. Increasing numbers of people are living for long periods in temporary refugee camps. The tents in which most of them are housed have a lifespan of only a few months and offer little protection against extreme weather conditions. Better Shelter has been developed taking into account factors such as transport volume, weight, price, health and safety, and comfort. The flat-packed shelter can be erected on site without extra tools. It has a lamp, an electricity outlet and is powered by a solar panel. Better Shelter has a lifespan of three years. At the end of March UNHCR ordered 10,000 units to be dispersed worldwide.
The Hibernate Foundation was established at the end of 2014 by friends Bas Timmer (fashion designer) and Alexander de Groot. With the help of friends and sponsors they have produced an outfit to keep homeless people warm in the winter. The Sheltersuit consists of a waterproof jacket and a zip-on sleeping bag. In the winter of 2014 the Salvation Army distributed a hundred Sheltersuits free of charge. Hibernate is currently working on a second-generation Sheltersuit with a wider sleeping bag that doubles as a blanket, a small solar-powered LED light and a bag with a pillow. The suits are made by a group of twenty volunteers, including the homeless, the longterm unemployed and asylum seekers. Twenty meals are delivered each day via local food delivery services. In this way Hibernate not only helps to keep homeless people warm but also supports them in other ways.
Artist Jan Rothuizen, multimedia journalist Martijn van Tol and photographer Dirk Jan Visser have made an interactive multimedia documentary to give a more accurate picture of life in refugee camps. Viewers can choose their own routes through Camp Domiz, a refugee camp in Syria, and learn about the everyday lives of the inhabitants. The combination of drawings, film footage, photography, audio and text creates a unique sensory experience.
National identity is not a static phenomenon. It is no longer a birthright but is increasingly a product that can be bought and sold or withdrawn. There is now ‘economic citizenship’ in which entry to a country is granted on the basis of investment. African, South American and European countries with debts sell ‘golden visas’ to generate investment. This kind of economic citizenship is a luxury product available only to the super-rich. Many refugees are also forced to pay large sums to be smuggled across national borders. The website Liquid Citizenship has collected information about citizenship worldwide. It shows the possibilities for buying a passport or gaining citizenship via naturalisation, human trafficking or asylum request.
In these times of economic recession and austerity measures, governments welcome grassroots initiatives. We have recently seen the emergence of a lively – online – exchange economy: you can find an apartment viaAirbnb, a taxi via Uberpop, a jigsaw or high-pressure jet spray via Peerby, and a lift via BlaBlaCar. So why shouldn’t you be able to share your passport? Stefania Vulpi has conceived Universal Unconditional: a borderless community that redefines the concept of citizenship. A worldwide network of people indicates which aspects of their citizenship they are not currently using and can thus offer to others, perhaps in exchange for rights that others can provide.
NOSIGNER is a design studio, which aims to make a positive contribution to society and the future. A mere forty hours after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that engulfed Japan, the studio launched the website OLIVE. O stands for the circle on the Japanese flag, thus OLIVE means ‘Japan LIVE’. People could use the website to share survival tips that could help during the disaster. OLIVE thus functioned as a collective knowledge database. The information has now been assembled in a book and in partnership with the Kohshin Trading Company, NOSIGNER has produced a survival pack: The Second Aid. The pack contains summaries from the OLIVE Book and tools that are useful in emergency situations.
Skipping Rocks Lab was founded in July 2014. Its first project, Ohoo!, won the 2014 Lexus Design Award. Ohoo! is a flexible, gelatinous membrane made from algae and calcium chloride that serves as an edible water container. You can suck the water from the membrane or you can pop the whole bubble in your mouth. Skipping Rocks Lab developed the product as an attempt to reduce the growing number of disposable plastic water bottles. Without the need for a bottle, transportation costs will be reduced, making it cheaper to deliver water to refugee camps. The plan is that in the future enormous water bubbles can be created that can meet a refugee camp’s entire water requirement in a single delivery.
The integration of asylum seekers mostly takes places behind closed doors, resulting in little contact with Dutch residents. This is why designer Pim van der Mijl invited a few inhabitants of the asylum seekers center in Onnen to design a meeting place in the middle of the local community; in the center of Onnen. Van der Mijl assessed the various skills of the inhabitants and together they explored ways in which they themselves could help shape this meeting place. The result is the Front Room: a space in which the asylum seekers are able to host their Dutch neighbors in order to get acquainted with each other. Van der Mijl wishes to distill a method from this project, thus making it possible for this initiative to be duplicated at other locations.
Design Column can be seen in gallery 51 on the first floor.