Accepted paper:

"This is not a home": meanings of spatial orders in refugees accommodation in Germany after 1945


Dagmar Hänel (LVR-Institut for regional studies)
Carsten Vorwig (LVR-Freilichtmuseum Kommern)

Paper short abstract:

Architecture and spatial orders of refugees accommodation are symbols for discourses and practices. Regarding this special kind of architecture as vernacular clarify that there is a tradition in forms and material culture as well as in the intangible elements in cultural dealing with strangers.

Paper long abstract:

The architecture of refugee accommodations symbolizes discourses on migration and integration. Looking at this special kind of vernacular architecture in Germany in past and present, the paper will show different traditions in material culture and in its intangible elements when dealing with refugees. After the Second World War Germany was faced not only with destroyed cities and infrastructures, but also with millions of displaced persons. Special forms for temporary accommodation for refugees were established: next to the possibility to be quartered camps and nissen huts were built. The architecture was functional and uniform; the objective was to accommodate a large amount of people in a short time for as little money as possible. This is still the leading idea of most of the European countries when they have to deal with refugees, especially in times of global crises, when numbers of refugees are increasing. In the 1990s lots of municipalities in Germany decided to place mobile houses for the accommodation of refugees. Planned for short-time use, lots of them are still occupied by people applying for asylum. The mobile homes can be regarded as materializations of the discourse on asylum and the social interaction with refugees. On the one hand, the architecture and its interior can symbolize practices of 'othering' as well as excluding strangeness by the refugee-hosting countries. On the other hand they can also symbolize dwelling practices and life styles of the refugees themselves. Our research examines the history of this symbolism from 1945 to 2015.

panel P009
Symbolism in vernacular architecture, vernacular architecture as symbol: new examples and perspectives