Solution or utopia? design for refugees
20 May - 3 Sep 2017

Today, 60 million people are fleeing from war, or have been displaced for other reasons. They often lack even the most fundamental necessities of life. Designers and architects can get involved and respond to these needs by developing inexpensive and/or smart solutions. And at a later stage – when people have arrived at a new destination – designers can help them to build new lives, and integrate into society through new technologies and innovative solutions.

 Yara Said, The Refugee Nation Flag. Foto: Angela Luna
Yara Said, The Refugee Nation Flag. Foto: Angela Luna

The Stedelijk Museum presents almost 50 recent initiatives designed to improve the temporary situations faced by refugees. One of the designers’ central challenges was to devise practical, real-life solutions. From clothing that can double as a tent, to improved signage in a refugee camp, and from linkable plastic floor sections for temporary shelters to a digital service that helps refugees navigate their new environment. Several of the proposals were designed or implemented by refugees, like the flag designed by the Syrian Yara Said for the Refugee Nation during the last Olympic Games and the furniture by Cucula, which is produced in Berlin.

Refugee Challenge

The exhibition Solution or Utopia? also includes a number of projects that were submitted for last year’s Refugee Challenge. This contest is organised by the annual What Design Can Do conference in Amsterdam, which encourages designers to come up with proposals aimed at improving the reception and integration of refugees. The competition is organised in partnership with UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation. 

Platform for discussion 

The Stedelijk is mounting this presentation to create a platform to discuss how designers, architects and companies can have a meaningful impact on the lives of refugees. What works and what doesn’t? Does a design offer a feasible, workable solution, or is it a far-off utopian dream? Is it useful to focus on refugees as a separate group? Do some designs (such as a sticker with ‘Refugees Welcome’) stigmatise or welcome? Is the western perspective of some designers a help or hindrance? Are refugees’ real needs actually addressed?Exhibition at two locationsThe exhibition Solution or Utopia? Design for Refugees will take place at two locations: aside from the Stedelijk, part of the presentation will be on view at Lola Lik, a creative hub situated near the asylum seekers centre in the former Bijlmerbajes prison in Amsterdam. On show at this location are projects that are made in cooperation with refugees, like for example the furniture by Cucula.The Stedelijk Museum is collaborating on the project with Refugee Company, which is based there.Two Syrian architecs, Mary Farwy and Michael Barchini, made the design for this exhibition.

The address of Lola Lik: H.J.E. Wenckebachweg 48.
The exhibition is open daily, from 10.00-18.00.
The exhibition is curated by Ingeborg de Roode and Jeanette Bisschops. 

public program

SUNDAY SEMINAR, May 21, 2017
Solution or Utopia? Design for refugees
Language: English
Location: Stedelijk Museum
More info & tickets