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New Refugee Design Challenge Focuses on Urban Housing

Ikea has teamed up with Dutch organization What Design Can Do

Housing solutions are central to responding to refugee crises, and with the social work of architects such as Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban receiving increased attention, it could be argued we're in the midst of a period of great innovation in the shelter sector. A new competition launched by Dutch organization What Design Can Do and the IKEA Foundation—the company's charitable wing that helped design and ship flat-pack shelters to Syrian refugees—seeks to tap into a wellspring of good design to solve a key issues facing displaced populations.

The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge, announced at the IKEA Democratic Design Days in Zürich, seeks to address that challenge directly, asking teams to create housing for urban areas. While numerous clever solutions for temporary shelters have been proposed and produced, few specifically deal with cities, which currently house more than 60 percent of refugees worldwide.

"Daring and innovative ideas are needed to deal with the long-term needs of so many new residents in many areas of life," said What Design Can Do founder Richard van der Laken. "This is what designers are good at."

The contest, sponsored by What Design Can Do, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the IKEA Foundation, is holding an open call for submissions through May 1. After a series of votes and winnowing down, five winners will be selected and given 10,000 euros ($11,129) to develop their ideas.

Thousands of Ikea Flatpack Shelters Have Gone to Syrian Refugees in 2015 [Curbed]
Small-Scale Design Helped Japan Recover From Big Earthquake [Curbed]