Essential Homes Research Project

Giardini Marineressa, Venice, Italy. 20 May - 26 November 2023

An increasing number of communities are suffering the consequences of natural disasters, wars or other humanitarian crisis, forcing them to leave their homes and countries to stay in refugee camps.

Although these camps are initially conceived as temporary solutions, the reality and experience has shown that they become permanent settlements where families spend countless years. However, the shelters designed to accommodate them are still designed with the basis of creating cheap, quick and temporary structures.

Given the permanent condition of these settlements, the Norman Foster Foundation would like to propose a different approach to this problem. Refugees and displaced communities should be entitled to better quality structures. We should aim to design homes, not temporary shelters, and we should be creating communities instead of camps. It is imperative then, that designers and engineers direct their efforts and skills to provide the best possible affordable and permanent habitable structures.

The project presented by Holcim and the NFF at the 2023 Venice Biennale addresses this humanitarian problem and proposes a design that aims to elevate the quality of the structures erected to accommodate people suffering these humanitarian crisis. To illustrate this concept, two interventions are proposed for the 2023 Venice Biennale: building a real sized house at the Giardini Marinaressa, and creating an exhibition at Palazzo Mora to complement the pavilion in the Giardinni. The context of humanitarian crisis will be displayed through graphs, timelines, diagrams and photographs, along with the evolution of the “shelter” concept. Physical models, renderings, drawings and panels of the project will be produced to illustrate the way in which the house at the Giardini could generate communities across diverse geographies.