Essential Homes Research Project

Giardini Marineressa, Venice, Italy. 2022 - ongoing

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.

To illustrate this concept, two interventions have been undertaken 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 wider context of the project is displayed through videos, timelines, diagrams and photographs, along with the evolution of the “shelter” concept. Physical models, renderings, drawings and panels of the project have been produced to illustrate the way in which the house at the Giardini could generate communities across diverse geographies.

The prototype and exhibition will be open to the public from 20 May to 26 November 2023.