Coffee#6 When the ‘top down’ meets the ‘bottom up’ | By Husam Al-Waer

Taking the Syrian al-Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan as a case study, this research illustrates the processes of adaptation and transformation, as initiated collectively by the residents of the camp, in the period from 2012 to 2019. 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 enhance social interaction. In doing so in a time scale of seven years, these refugees have created a sense of place from a non-place, allowing them to find dignity, meaning, and hope. The underlying aim in this research is to begin a re-conceptualization of the camp design in order to offer an analytic framework for more systematic enquiry. This research argues that the short term ‘top-down’ emergency camp planning and design strategies need to be adjusted to release the potential of ‘bottom up’ long term activities by all actors in the system. This research argues that when refugees collectively reimagine a camp as a hybrid urban space, they can make positive changes to both their individual and collective lives as well as the local economy. To know more, feel free to contact Husam Al-Waer

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