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Students win award for refugee shelter design

By Daniela Veiga, June 11 2015 —

Two University of Calgary students won an international prize for their refugee shelter design. The masters of architecture students were tasked with designing refugee shelter prototypes in EVDA 782, a senior research class.

One of the projects — “The Fold,” designed by Amber Lafontaine and Sophia Li — won a $10,000 prize in the humanitarian category at the Future of Shade design competition.

Graham Livesey, who teaches the course, explained that Lafontaine and Li focused on how a refugee camp could turn into a functioning community with different types of shelters. He thinks the use of coloured and patterned fabric in their design helped lead to the success.

“I was very happy that one of the groups won this design competition, which is quite prestigious.” Livesey said. “They weren’t just competing with other students, they were competing with more established designers.”

While refugee camps are designed to be temporary, displaced persons often live in shelters for many years. Students Sam Abdollahi and Ryan Ince also took the course, attempting to deal with this issue in their project, “Ar.tic.u.la.tion.”

Their structure supports raised hard flooring, a wash basin and convertible furniture that can be configured as beds, a table and other seating.

“Looking at examples of what has been done before, all the projects were basically shells, they didn’t provide any furniture and comfort,” Abdollahi said. “We were thinking about providing something more permanent.”

Livesey noted the importance of striking a balance between the social aspects of design and technical requirements.

“If you lose sight of the social and community aspects of your work then you end up with environments that aren’t very livable,” Livesey said. “In the end you also have to produce a building that can be built.”

Livesey was satisfied with the results of the project and hasn’t ruled out repeating the topic in future classes.

“I was very happy with the commitment of the students. They met all my expectations and even surpassed them.”

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