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Welcome back to Open Lectures

The College will be hosting its first in-person Open Lecture since the beginning of the pandemic. All are welcome to attend the College for this much anticipated event.

Event Details

  • Date:
  • Venue: Al-Maktoum College:
    124 Blackness Rd, Dundee, Scotland, dd1 5pe, United Kingdom

Dr. Husam AlWaer, Reader in Sustainable Urban Design at University of Dundee, joins the College for its first Open Lecture since the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr AlWaer will be presenting When the ‘Top-Down’ meets the ‘Bottom-Up’: Collective Place Making & Hybrid Transformations in al-Zaatari refugee camp between 2012 and 2021 

For those who are unable to attend the lecture in-person, there will also be the option to join online. Whether you choose to join in-person or online, we ask that you register for this lecture directly on Zoom.

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About the Open Lecture

Refugee camps are often considered as temporary places built in response to an emergency crisis caused by wars and natural disasters. They are put in place with the view that a more permanent settlement will be provided elsewhere in the medium term for the displaced population. However, this is rarely the case as demonstrated through various previous studies which shows that they often end up being permanent as is the case of Palestinian refugees camps in Jordan for example. Because of the urgency in providing basic shelters for a large displaced and distressed population, it is frequently the case that the design of these camps follows a ‘top-down’ humanitarian aid strategies. These strategies are frequently based on universal standardization of shelter and settlement layout, allowing for a rapid and temporary provision that will eventually be dismantled and removed. These camps have consequently often been considered as a ‘space of paradox’ because they place the forced displacement in a space that neither feels right nor is wanted by their host nation state (Huynh, 2015).

Taking as a case study the Syrian refugees Zaatari camp in Jordan, this presentation illustrates the processes of adaptations and transformations that have taken place between 2012 and 2021, as initiated collectively by the residents of the camp. It illustrates how in situations of social stress, collective initiatives empower refugees to customize and adapt their environment, expand opportunities of income generating activities and social interaction and to thereby allow them to find dignity, meaning, and create a sense of place form a non-place. This presentation illustrates how from an initially rigid masterplan and sterile environment, the collective spirit of self-organising and creativity, transformed the camp into a more sophisticated hybrid urban environment. It demonstrates how refugees navigate through rigid regulations to creatively transform their living environment by collectively repurposing, adjusting, dismantling, merging spaces and structures, producing patterns of urban living that resonate with their recent past. This presentation argues that when refugees collectively reimagine the camp as a hybrid urban space, they can make positive changes to both their individual and collective lives.

Lessons of ‘bottom-up’ collective place making are drawn from the examination of the transformations made by refugees to the camp over a eight-year period.

About the speaker

Dr AlWaer is an architect, planner and urbanist, with a background in architecture, urban planning and sustainability. He is currently Reader in Sustainable Urban Design at the University of Dundee, having previously researched and taught at Reading and Liverpool universities. He has worked with various UK and International governmental and corporate agencies on research, training and engagement projects. Husam’s work has had a demonstrable impact in both academia and practice.

He has an interest in the past and future of sustainable places, towns and cities, and in particular the development of new approaches to sustainable urbanism and the way new methodologies are facilitated and managed. Dr AlWaer is an award-winning author with published work on a wide range of subjects from architecture, urbanism, sustainability and healthy neighbourhoods to the specifics of placemaking facilitation and performance evaluation. He brings insight to research, teaching, community stakeholder engagement and professional practice at the intersection between theoretical and contemporary policy and practice.