Urban designers should study refugee camps such as The Jungle in Calais, France, according to architecture undergraduate Sophie Flinder, who has written a thesis on how it has become a fully functioning town.
Flinder, a student at the UK’s Oxford Brookes School of Architecture, spent six months studying the history of the camp and charting how it has transformed from “a non-place to a place”.
She said: “What is built in the Jungle is based on the refugees’ desires, memories and shared symbols.
“Shelter, religion, education, trading and culture are five clear aspects of any community and they are present in The Jungle.”
The camp is populated by around 3,000 people and has its own shops, cafes, mosques and churches – and even a theatre.
Flinder had to hurriedly rewrite her dissertation when French authorities started demolishing The Jungle earlier this year, but she believes that architects could learn from the camp to help aid organisations.
“While the Jungle has poor sanitary conditions but a unique culture, official camps driven by [UN refugee agency] UNHCR are in much better shape but often stripped of identity,” she said.
“It is also important to remember that the people living in these squalid conditions used to live in proper homes, and aim to do so again. Therefore I believe that architects and designers and their ability to think of transformable solutions should be included in the process of making shelters for these camps.”
She added: “Shelters should be designed to break up daily routines, and give the user the freedom to individually inhabit the space.”