Miami University students design structures for Syrian refugee camp

Zaatari is in an incredibly difficult climate with very little resources.
Zaatari is in an incredibly difficult climate with very little resources. | File photo

Sixteen Miami University architecture and interior design students gained practical experience in addressing design challenges and cross-cultural exchange in the MUHabitat studio program through which they designed structures for Syrians living in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.

“Zaatari is in an incredibly difficult climate with very little resources, so this is a small step in making the living conditions just a little bit better for the inhabitants,” MUHabitat studio participant Josh Gabbard said. “It’s great to see a collaboration like this turn out so well.”

The program was initiated by alumna Laurie Balbo, who lives in Jordan. She contacted Miami Associate Professor of Architecture Diane Fellows, explaining the camp’s conditions and the opportunity for Miami University students to learn and make a difference in the refugee’s day-to-day lives. Students collaborated with a group of Syrian professionals and craftsmen living in the camp, using Skype and Facebook to communitcate.

“We used technology to break down barriers that would otherwise prevent us from establishing a dialogue,” Gabbard said. “The most important thing for me though was just realizing how significant the dialogue was. We may have been talking architecture, but the fact that we were talking at all was much more important.”

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