with no end to the global refugee crisis in sight, the villages that house the temporary shelters have surprisingly become a form of permanent urbanism. the current settlements, while effective at addressing primary concerns of habitat, fail to meet other needs. hence, architectural designers graham sandelski, daniel aguilar and cameron overy have developed PROVISIONAL PERMANENCE which offers new typologies of civic spaces much needed in such communities. borrowing IKEA‘s flat pack shelter, the strict layout of camps ultimately breaks down into more humane dimensions. 

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
the A-frame of the auditorium breaks the uniformity of the standard shelter grid



PROVISIONAL PERMANENCE engages the issue of quality of life by providing three different community-oriented programs to refugee camps. by introducing a market, town center, school with auditorium and worship center — all derived from IKEA’s flat pack shelters — displaced populations have accessible means of creating the social dynamism found in traditional cities. this ultimately allows them to become residents of their own places.

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
the raised roof allows for an open plan market and unobstructed access



these suggested spaces are created with materials that are already available and easy to work with. indeed, three typologies are built completely out of the components of the flat pack houses — each made of a combination of two, three, or four units. in this scenario, the features of the IKEA shelter become a new vernacular material. by using the pre-existing units, the spaces acquire structural stability and greater material quality. all in all, each of the introduced typologies offers much needed relief from the homogeneous grid of shelters.

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
diagram showing interventions within the unyielding grid of shelters



interjecting these civic buildings into the field of regularly spaced shelters, the camps are given a sense of place and hierarchy. this project focuses on improving the quality of life in the refugee camps, providing a functional and humane place to live. however, it does not solve the refugee crisis and it does not seek to do so. it does, however, give the people the tools and encouragement to turn a camp into a community and the structure to turn a community into a city.

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
deconstructed IKEA flatpack shelter

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
two shelters pulled apart to form a school

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
two shelters pitched into an auditorium

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
three shelter re-oriented into a sacred space for prayers and worship

provisional permanence civic spaces refugee camps designboom
four shelters folded into a market



project info:


team: daniel aguilar, cameron overy, and graham sandelski



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

  • The team is comprised of architectural designers Daniel Aguilar, Cameron Overy, and Graham Sandelski

    g. sandelski says:

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