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Humanizing the Void Open Access

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As of end-2014, the UNCHR estimated the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide to be 59.5 million. As of October 2015 Germany expected to receive 1.5 million displaced persons whose aim is to regain the rhythm of life, to settle and make a home in a new place. Refugee camps are viewed as temporary, but the reality is that the average lifespan of a camp ranges from seven to seventeen years, with the oldest one having housed three generations after being set up to support Palestinians displaced by the founding of Israel in 1948. These statistics support the urgent need to move away from temporary aid structures in favor of spaces that provide dignified refuge to the displaced that are able to function for an extended period of time.The purpose of architecture is to improve human life through the creation of spaces for all activities in life. It is these activities of human life that are both ruled by and mark the passage of time. What if a person finds him or herself in a void of time, in a transition period where the rhythm of normal life is interrupted? Can a space be designed to humanize the experience of such a void, to support a displaced person during a crucial period of transition?It is in this non-place, where I see the opportunity for design to support humans at their most vulnerable. This thesis is an exploration of how design can support a displaced person through the humanizing of the non-place, the void, by creating an environment that provides comfort to those experiencing this void and for those assisting in this process.

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