london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center

explore the Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center pavilion in june 2023

 

A pavilion dedicated to Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center in northern Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, developed by to.org, and designed by Hassell in partnership with Arup, will debut at the London Design Biennale this June. Currently under construction, this interdisciplinary project will provide a space for creative expression, training, and performance in Africa’s biggest refugee settlement, which is currently home to over 270,000 refugees, 65% of whom are under the age of 18, who in recent years were forced to flee their homes in South Sudan due to ongoing violent conflict in the country. 

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center
all images © Hassell (unless stated otherwise)

 

 

reframing the meaning of the word ‘refugee’ 

 

Led by the philanthropic platform to.org, in collaboration with the Hassell team, Kampala design studio LocalWorks, and the global Arup consultancy, the Bidi Bidi Pavilion at London Design Biennale is part of a larger mission to reframe the narrative around the word ‘refugee’. It will showcase the unique process, architectural elements, and technical solutions exemplified by the Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre building, with stories from the refugee and non-refugee communities whose collaboration is bringing the project to life.

 

The word refugee should refer to a status, not an individual’s entire identity. We regularly see demeaning rhetoric around the existence of displaced people. When words are used to ‘other’ the most vulnerable among us, we have a shared responsibility to reclaim and reframe those words. By creating opportunities for the refugees we work with to shine, to have their voices heard and their creativity amplified, we hope to de-slur the word ‘refugee’ and turn it into a status that inspires universal respect,’ reflects Nachson Mimran, Co-founder & Creative Executive Officer of to.org.

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center
Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center in northern Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee settlement

 

 

a low-carbon and semi-open-air amphitheater

 

Currently under construction in northern Uganda, the Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center will be a sheltered, semi-open-air amphitheater that can double as a performance venue or community gathering space. In addition, the building will provide classrooms, a recording studio, and areas for music training, as well as a tree nursery, vegetable garden, and freshwater facilities – all essential for a community where food and water shortages are rapidly worsening due to climate change.

 

The construction process uses low-cost, low-carbon, and local building materials, with a labor force comprising refugees and host-community Ugandans. The building walls employ compressed stabilized earth brick instead of fired brick using soil excavated from the site. This traditional local technique offers lower construction costs; it dramatically reduces environmental impact, as the blocks are manually pressed in situ and cured in the sun without fuel. The structure further benefits from a large, lightweight, and funnel-shaped roof, naturally cooling the building interior and collecting rainwater, filtered to provide potable water to the community. This elliptical plan gives room to two centers, one collecting daylight and rainwater and the other offering an amphitheater stage.

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center
an amphitheater stage for performances

 

 

Music and dance programming at Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center is being developed with the multimedia music project Playing for Change and others, including Ugandan and international musicians and dance crews, and will be operated by SINA Loketa in collaboration with Bidi Bidi refugee instructors and administrators.

 

‘To.org brought together architects, ethnographers, musicians, and activists – some refugees, some not – to find innovative solutions for creating opportunities and infrastructure for the most vulnerable. Because of this collaboration, the Bidi Bidi refugee community will have a space to play, learn, perform, create, and share, with music and dance programming, focused on reducing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and building community, setting a new precedent for how we think about, talk about, and create opportunities for displaced people,’ continues Mimran. 

 

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what to expect at the london design biennale 2023

 

Visitors to the London Design Biennale will be able to explore a life-size construction detail mockup of the Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center alongside a 1:100 scale wooden model, building plans and details, and a specially commissioned video produced by To:Studios, presenting the project through the stories of the Bidi Bidi community. Placing a spotlight on local craftsmanship, also on show will be one of the original presses used to produce the compressed stabilized earth blocks forming the center’s walls.

 

The press will be used for earth brick-making workshops during the exhibition and employed to produce the blocks for the London Design Biennale installation with locally sourced soil in the UK. Lastly, the show will be accompanied by a panel talk on 20 June at King’s College London to mark World Refugee Week as part of the London Design Biennale talk series.

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center
1:100 scale wooden model

london design biennale dedicates a pavilion to hassell's bidi bidi refugee music & arts center
top view of the model showing the center’s elliptical design

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Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Center under construction | image courtesy to.org

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