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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Japanese Architect Looks To Design Refugee Housing In Kenya

Japanese architect Ban Shigeru (surname first) is not only well known in his native country, but also globally.

His big thing is creating low-cost housing from corrugated and wood—efforts that have had his designs used in times of disaster.

For his next project, Ban has signed up to try and design thousands o shelters for use in a large refugee camp in Kenya—the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement that over 37,000 people are living in.

Most of the refugees are from South Sudan and Somalia.

While the camp was designed to house 45,000 people, it is well under capacity right now.

The problem is that since 2017 began upwards of 17,000 people have arrived at the camp.

With fears that the camp will soon be unable to handle the rush of humanity, the UN Refugee Agency is looking to see how the camp can be enlarged…

Problem #1… the camp isn’t exactly a tourist hot-spot, meaning that it’s not near an airport or highway… in fact, if you are looking for supplies from the capital city of Nairobi, it can take up to three days by truck… so yes…

Problem #2... the environment. It is stupid hot, has little water, deforestation and, too much water when its the rainy season and the area is caught up in flooding.

The architect's bailiwick, as mentioned, is affordable emergency shelters made from corrugated (what everyone else NOT involved in its manufacture and use calls cardboard).

Japanese Architect, Ban Shigeru (in the black outfit) during recent his visit to Kalobeyei Settlement in Kakuma. You think think that you wouldn't want to wear black clothing because of albedo and how darker colors tend to attract heat. Photo by UN-HABITAT.
Ban's job is to create some 20,000 emergency shelters for families... so, for maybe 60 or 80 thousand people?

The first thing he did was get up out of his office and visited the Kalobeyei Settlement to meet with refugees.

He looked at the housing already there, and discussed their needs in order to design something that would work best in that part of the world.

Part of that was determining just how the locals approach construction... everyone has a way of constructing their own things. Ban wanted to make sure his design jived well  with the people building it, as well as living in it.

"The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required, and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly," says Ban. "It's important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants."

A test, if you will, are the 20 homes Ban is constructing... to see if it passes the muster of the new locals who will be using it.

If successful with his design--whatever it is--Ban will works with the facility... if not, he'll redesign it.

I'll check back in on Ban's progress later.

Andrew Joseph


  1. That's really impressive and nice for him to do that!!

    1. Yeah - I don't think he's doing this except out of charity.