[via The UN Refugee Agency/Kenya]

Renowned Japanese Architect, Shigeru Ban, winner of the 2014 Pritzker Prize, seen as the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” has signed an agreement to design up to 20,000 new homes for refugees, in the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement in Kenya.

Shigeru said he was prompted to get involved after hearing about the immense challenges facing humanitarian agencies in providing shelter to tens of thousands of refugees arriving in the area from countries such as South Sudan. Over 17,000 refugees have arrived this year.

During the visit Ban met with refugees and the local community and looked at the existing structures housing thousands of displaced people, to help assess the current shelter and design needs. Ban explained his reasons for signing the agreement and vision for the project.

“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. It’s important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants.”

Ban also said that it was important to him to learn about how local people construct, and to transfer his knowledge and experience of providing disaster-related shelter.

The agreement is an important step towards providing basic humanitarian services in Kalobeyei, which is home to over 37,000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan and Somalia. It was only built to house approximately 45,000 individuals, but the number is expected to rise to because of the refugee influx.

Shigeru is qualified for the project many say. He has successfully completed over a dozen displacement related shelter projects around the world in countries like Italy, Turkey and Nepal, using basic materials like cardboard, wood, and beer crates.

He’s noted for helping to design shelter made from paper for nearly 2 million Rwandan refugees displaced in the 1990s following the civil war. And he is the recipient of many prestigious architectural awards.

UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya, Raouf Mazou, welcomed Ban’s willingness and commitment to help sort out the shelter issue in Kalobeyei, and find durable and sustainable solutions to housing that benefit both refugees and the local host community.

“We are grateful for Shigeru’s support. Providing decent and lasting shelter is key to addressing the needs of thousands of refugees in Kalobeyei. A successful partnership on shelter such as this will help to empower refugees, and reduce dependency by giving them stable and durable homes to live in. It will also go along way to improving the socio-economic climate in Kalobeyei, which will benefit not just the displaced, but the host community too.”

Ban’s design will be tested on 20 shelters first, and if successful, will be rolled out to replace existing structures. But resources to construct the homes will still need to be found.

Read the full article on the UN Refugee Agency website.

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